Mr. Durfee's Blog

«   »
Class Blogs
Articles By Category
Articles By Month
Recent Articles
Favorite Links
RSS Feed
Back To Directory
Title: Deifining Social History
Category: Student Writing
Description: Social History Lesson
Defining Social History
Often, people think the study of history means studying governments, battles, and national leaders. These are important history topics, but historians learn much about history by studying the lives of everyday people as well.

Social history is the history of the everyday experiences and beliefs of ordinary people. Social historians look at teachers, store clerks, factory workers, police officers, the unemployed, children, computer programmers -- all kinds of people you might meet in your own life.

The number of social history topics is huge because social history looks at every aspect of day-to-day life -- family life, recreation, work, social life, religious beliefs, and more. Most social historians study one group of people (such as Japanese Americans), one particular area (such as the Great Plains in Nebraska), or a specific topic within social history (such as family life).
Asking Social History Questions
Imagine that you are a social historian studying family life in Massachusetts in three different periods of history. What kinds of questions would you ask?

Here are examples of questions you might research:
·         What kind of food does this family usually eat? How do they get their food?
·         What kinds of natural resources are available where this family lives? How do these resources influence the types of food, shelter, and clothing available?
·         Does every child in the family attend school? Why or why not?
·         Can every member of the family read and write? Why or why not? What kinds of books are available to the family?
·         How important is religion to the family's life?
·         What work does each member of the family do?
·         Does the family own property? Why or why not?
·         Which family members can vote? Which family members do vote?
·         What transportation does the family use to get around?
·         What games do children play? What do adults do for relaxation?
·         What family activities might be considered an art or craft today?

Sources for Learning About Social History
Social historians use many sources -- diaries, letters, songs, census information, artifacts including clothing and tools, photographs, public records including birth, marriage and death certificates, and oral histories.
In this lesson, you will use oral histories to explore social history. You will start by studying oral histories collected as part of the Federal Writers' Project in the 1930s. Then you will conduct some oral history interviews yourself.

Now you will be grouped in threes.
  1. Interview each member of the group based on the questions above. Each person will have 10 minutes on the hot seat. Remember not to ask YES/NO questions; discuss each prompt for stories, rather than isolated facts.
  2. Take notes (digital or paper, your call). I will collect them at the end of class for a grade.
  3. Each group member will be responsible for writing a descriptive paragraph about the most interesting aspect of your discussion with another group member. I will assign these, too. Complete in class or for a graded homework assignment.
These skills are laying the foundation for the work we will do as student journalists in a few weeks. 

Instructions: Type your name and your comments in the boxes provided below. The location box is optional. All comments must be approved by the owner of this website before they are displayed in the comment section. The website owner has the right to edit or delete any comment posted to their blog.
Leave your comment
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Enter text as shown in image above