Where Have We Been? Tracing Family through a Timeline of National History
This lesson plan introduces students to examples of how wars and technological developments have impacted the movement of people throughout United States and world history. Students will learn about the effects of political, technological, and geographical issues on the population of one North Carolina community. Listening to oral histories by North Carolinians, students will hear first hand accounts about the impact of wars and road building on Madison County. Using a timeline depicting events and changes over two hundred years of national and regional history, students will begin to connect historical events with the people they impacted. They will then investigate where their families fit into history in both time and place. After researching their family history, students will create a timeline of their own depicting where their relatives were at important junctures in history. Through discussion with classmates, they will consider what was happening throughout the country and the world at different points in time. The oral history, timeline, and discussion exercises will emphasis the personal impact of political and technological change.
Grade 5 - Social Studies
Classroom Time Needed: 3 50-minute class periods, or 2 90-minute block class periods
Students will recognize how wars and technological developments have impacted the movement of people.
Students will relate history to the personal experiences of one community through listening to oral histories and then consider it in the context of their own family and the families of their classmates.
Students will formulate their own opinions about how communities and families can preserve fundamental values in a world that is rapidly changing.
North Carolina Standard Course of Study - Grade 5 Social Studies
Goal 4: The learner will trace key developments in United States history and describe their impact on the land and people of the nation and its neighboring countries.
Goal 6: The learner will recognize how technology has influenced change within the United States and other countries in North America.
Materials and Resources
Teachers should review the timeline and listen to the oral history excerpts.
Review with students the ways in which one western North Carolina community has changed since the arrival of its first white settlers in 1784 to the start of the 21st century:
Activity One: An Historical Overview
Using the electronic timeline or photocopied timelines lead a class discussion about changes that have occurred throughout the decades:
In preparation for the assignment, ask students to research information about the movement of their own family. Ask them to trace one limb of their family tree back one hundred years or as far as they can, collecting information about when and where relatives were as well as what they were doing for 5-10 different years. These dates could represent births, deaths, moves, job changes, military service, etc. Note the wide variety of possible experiences. Some families may not know details about their history, others students may themselves have been born outside of the United States. Each family has an interesting story to tell and the assignment should be adapted to fit their uniqueness.
Activity Two: Listening to the Oral Histories
Review what students already know about connections betweens wars, technological developments, and the movement of people. Ask them to summarize significant shifts throughout history.
Introduce the concept of oral histories, and discuss their value as we study important events. Mention that oral histories provide a chance for the "regular person" to record his or her experiences, not just the well-known or famous people often recorded in written history. More resources about oral histories are provided in Supplemental Information.
Hand out transcripts of the oral histories, and ask students as they listen to take notes on the speaker's experiences and observations.
Play the first oral history excerpt, from Former North Carolina Senator Lauch Faircloth and allow students a minute or two to record their thoughts.
Play the second oral history excerpt, from Jerry Plemmons and again allow time for students to record their thoughts.
Play the third oral history excerpt, from Jerry Plemmons and allow time for students to record their thoughts.
Play the fourth oral history excerpt, from Sam Parker and allow time for students to record their thoughts.
Play the fifth oral history excerpt, from Taylor Barnhill and allow time for students to record their thoughts.
Play the sixth oral history excerpt, from Stan Hyatt and allow time for taking notes.
Follow up with discussion questions:
Create a timeline that includes stories from your family history interspersed with major events in United States and world history. Begin, by tracing one limb of your family tree back one hundred years or as far as you can. Collecting information about when and where your relatives were as well as what they were doing for 5-10 different years. Starting with the earliest year you have information about and ending with this year, create 5-10 markers of significant years in your family history. These markers could represent births, deaths, moves, job changes, military service, etc. Next, research what historical events were happing around the same time and make markers for them as well. Your teacher and library media specialist can help you find this information. Markers can be brief descriptions you have written or pictures you have labeled. All markers should include a title and a year. Reflect on the personal experiences of your relatives and the time periods they lived/live in. Using paper clips hang your markers from earliest to most recent along a string.
Ask students to share stories about their own family within the context of historical events.
Recalling the stories form the oral histories, ask students if they think their family members got cars and electricity before or after the people in Madison County. Factors such as where they were living and working are likely to have influenced when they first bought a car, got electricity, or used a telephone.
Ask students about their personal reactions to seeing their family history intertwined with major events in United States and world history?
Ask students to discuss their own opinions about how communities and families can preserve fundamental values in a world that is so rapidly changing.
Information about the history of western North Carolina
Change in the Mountains - From the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill (2007).
Information about the Interstate 26 debate
Morning Edition - An eight minute NPR story describing the community debate over Interstate 26 in Madison County, NC (1998).
Information about oral histories
The Value of Oral History - From LearnNC
Making Sense of Oral History - By Linda Shopes, a historian at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Complete Oral Histories
Environmental Transformations in North Carolina - These twenty-three oral histories, from UNC-Chapel Hill's Oral Histories of the American South Collection, record stories of environmental change in North Carolina. Many of the interviews included in this online learning module are listed here.