Do you like to ask questions? Do you like to dig into the past? If you do, then you can be your family's story detective. By talking with people and asking the right questions, you can uncover stories from the past — history — from someone who was actually there. You can solve mysteries about who you are and where you came from. When you record or write down these stories, you are making sure that important information won't get lost forever. Imagine: A hundred years from now, other kids might hear your grandma's stories because you saved them. GETTING STARTED: COLLECTING CLUES
First, choose someone to interview. Older relatives might have the oldest stories, but other relatives might have interesting stories, also. Think of Mends, too — remember that you don't have to limit your sleuthing to your family. For your first interview, make sure you choose someone who likes to talk.
Next, write down a list of questions. Test your questions by reading them out loud. Rewrite any questions that could be answered with a simple yes or no. The best questions encourage long, thoughtful answers. For example, if you ask, "When did our family come to America?" the answer might be just a year or a date. But if you ask, "How did our family come to America?" you could get a whole story.
Be sure to collect basic facts, such as each person's name, age, and birth place. Then ask questions like these to help uncover interesting stories:
* What was your life like before you came to America?
* How was it different in America?
* How did you feel when you first arrived in America?
Sometimes, people don't remember how their family came to America. In that case, your questions might give you clues to other mysteries. For example, you might ask:
* What did you do for fun when you were growing up?
* What was school like when you were a kid?
* What were some of your favorite family meals or special treats?
* How did you celebrate holidays and birthdays?
* What are your favorite family traditions or treasures?
* Do you have any old photos you can share with me?
Often, these questions lead to new questions and great stories. THE INTERVIEW: SOLVING THE MYSTERY
When you're ready for the interview, you'll need a pencil and a piece of paper to write down the answers. Or you can use a tape recorder or video camera and take notes later. (If you use a recording device, make sure to test your equipment first: You don't want to get started and find that you have dead batteries or no tape.)
Find a time and a quiet place to interview, where you won't be interrupted. Don't rush; give your interviewee time to think about his or her answers. Pay attention to the answers so you can follow up with more questions. For example, if Uncle Rudy tells you that his family came from Germany, you might ask:
* Why did they come to America?
* How did they get here?
Before you finish, ask one more question: "Can you think of anyone else I should interview?" The more people you talk with, the more mysteries you solve and the richer your story will be. Finally, be sure to thank everyone for their time. SHARING THE STORIES
You are ready to share your detective work with the world! Look over your notes or listen to your recording. What did you discover? Is there an interesting story to retell? Are there important facts to share? Here are a few ways to present the evidence you collected. Of course, you might come up with other ideas, such as:
* Rewrite your favorite story into a picture book. Illustrate it with photographs or your own drawings. At the end, be sure to mention your sources: Where did you get your information?
* Collect family photos and arrange them in an album. Write a fact, memory, or story caption for each one.
* Make a family poster or collage.
* Use a computer to create a multimedia presentation. You could even use the voice of the person/people you interviewed.
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