A Thanksgiving intergenerational project in the U.S.A. would make an excellent language activity anywhere.
StoryCorps is an innovative oral history project that has been recording ordinary Americans having conversations with people they love since 2003.
The concept is simple: the mobile StoryCorps recording booth sets up in a town. Anyone who wants to can come in and record a conversation that will be conserved at the Library of Congress, construing an ever-growing oral history of the 20th and 21st centuries. The recordings are regularly featured on National Public Radio’s morning edition. StoryCorps has produced books and animated films based on the stories, and you can sign up to receive a story by email each week. Warning: many of them are tearjerkers!
In 2015, StoryCorps launched a free mobile phone app to make it even easier to record and upload conversations. For Thanksgiving (25 November this year) it is asking people to take the opportunity to record a conversation with one of the older members of their family circle. Schools and organisations across the country are encouraging young people to take part.
Thanksgiving is the day in the year where people are most likely to see their families. It is not considered religious and always falls as a part of a four-day weekend so people make a great effort to go home even if it’s a long distance. This project encourages the young people in the family to record the older members talking about their lives.
Doing interviews like this is a great way to practise interaction, especially the listening part, and using the app gives a nice authentic feel. You can find various ways to adapt the idea to a French setting, as pupils are unlikely to be able to interview family members in English. Perhaps they could do interviews in French and use them as a basis for a role play in class, the pupil playing their relative and another asking the questions. Or, drop the intergenerational aspect and have pupils interview each other, perhaps on how their family celebrates a holiday, or their memories of their first day at school.
This short video can be both listening comprehension and an introduction to the project. The first sentence is a little abstract, but if you start from 0'13", it can be used from A2.
And this 1’15” B1 audio is an interesting Thanksgiving story. Scott Macaulay, from Massachusetts, home of the first Thanksgiving, explains why he started inviting complete strangers to share a Thanksgiving meal. Like all the StoryCorps recordings, you can download the audio and see a transcript.
There's a detailed video to help teachers organise the Great Listen with their students.
If your students have trouble coming up with questions, this selection should help them. But keep it as a back up. Ask students first to come up with a list of questions collectively.
In 2014, the BBC and the British Library launched a similar scheme, inspired by StoryCorps, the Listening Project.
> Why Black Friday?
> The Voyage of the Mayflower
> Columbus Day
> A Native American View of Thanksgiving
> Thanksgiving Dinner in Space
> Thanksgiving Stories