Thanksgiving is a Great Time to Learn Family Histories
Here’s a great idea for students to try over Thanksgiving: as you are preparing food, sitting around a table, or relaxing as a family, ask a younger member of your family to speak with an elder in a meaningful way and record a personal narrative. It may start with a broad question about what is important in that elder’s life and lead to more specific questions that may explain why the elder made certain critical choices that shaped their family’s history: moving to a different location, beginning a new career, meeting a future spouse.    

When a child has the chance to ask, “What is the most crucial thing that happened when you were my age?” to a grandparent, a whole range of possible answers could open up that could foster intergenerational understanding and shed light on values that are held dear by both generations. Social, political, and faith-based issues may also be explored in this context.

There are many apps available to record these conversations, both for documenting what is learned and also to create an archive of family histories—recordings that could be cherished for years to come. But there are also great skills and lessons to learn through hearing and capturing another person’s authentic story. Crafting a strong narrative prose is an important skill for all students to master. But perhaps the best reason to suggest this activity is to foster strong connections with a family member through story, shared experience, and the chance to discover common threads that weave through different generations and reemerge when given the opportunity.
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