Monday, June 6, 2011

Culture Alert, Part 2: Learning to Interview

On May 10th, the PerkinsBlog reported on the new project started by Ms. Alert's class. These third graders were looking at cultures around the world, and how diverse customs, beliefs, and habits make people act and live differently. Yet in many ways, all people are the same.

Many of the kids in Ms. Alert's class had parents and grandparents that came from different countries. They decided to talk to their families to discover the ways life was different there.

But how do you conduct an interview? Ms. Goodman, Perkins' author in residence, has done a lot of interviews to research her books. She knows a lot of good tips. She came to class to interview Ms. Alert, who was born and raised in British Guyana.

Ms Goodman had her questions ready. In fact, they were the same questions the class is going to use when talking to members of their own family. She used those questions, but she didn't just ask them, write down an answer and move on. She used them to start a conversation with Ms. Alert. This got Ms. Alert thinking and talking about her life in British Guyana so she came up with lots more examples than she might have with just one question.

Ms. Goodman wrote down the answers but she didn't try to write down every word. If she had, it would have taken her too long and she wouldn't have been able to hear what Ms. Alert said next. She put down the most important words of each answer. These words would help her remember what Ms. Alert said for when she wrote it up as a report later. (You can read her notes if you click on the image to make it larger.)

Also, once Ms. Alert started talking something she'd often mention a detail that was part of an answer to a question she had already been asked. Then Ms. Goodman went back and jotted it down where it belonged. For example, when Ms. Alert said that she came to the United States in 1996, Ms. Goodman added to the section about where she had lived before.

If Ms. Goodman didn't have enough room to write down the answers, she used the margins--or drew a line to where the rest of the answer would be.

The kids weren't just learning about how to interview. They were also learning about British Guyana, its culture, AND their teacher. In British Guyana, for example, people ate their big meal of the day at lunchtime and everyone flew kites on Easter Monday! Furthermore Ms. Alert's middle name is Cleoretta!!! Soon their hands were up all the time with questions and all Ms. Goodman had to do was take notes.

If we found out so much about Ms. Alert and her culture in just one hour, what are the kids going to learn about THEIR families?