The Great Thanksgiving Listen


StoryCorp is creating more compassionate schools, families, and communities through storytelling and listening. You may have heard some of the touching, funny, or incredibly inspiring stories on National Public Radio. A student might interview a teacher that helped him or her overcome challenges to reach a goal or a daughter might interview her father about his childhood. The stories are created when two people come to a mobile or permanent StoryCorp booth. One person interviews the other for 40 minutes and a recording of the interview is published and preserved for future generations to access.

In 2015, StoryCorps launched The Great Thanksgiving Listen. Teachers and mentors have used this opportunity to encourage their students to record an interview with someone from an older generation over the Thanksgiving holiday. It is a wonderful chance for students to slow down, truly listen, and maybe learn something they didn’t know before from an elder. Students not only connect with someone who is likely important to them but also capture a piece of history.

To participate, students need access to the StoryCorps website through a smart device or computer. They also have the option to use the StoryCorps App. The app guides students through the entire interview process and includes suggestions for preparing questions, finding the best place to conduct the interview, and the steps for uploading their digital interviews. Please note that parental consent is required for people under the age of 18 to register for a StoryCorps App account.

Interviews do not have to be uploaded and shared, but if students choose to they are entered into the StoryCorps Archive in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Family, friends, and classmates can also access the complete interview through the StoryCorps website.

A number of resources on the StoryCorps website are available to teachers to help students prepare for their interview and understand the importance of the project. Information about what makes an effective interview, lessons on how listening enhances our connections and experiences, why our stories matter and how they can change the world, and the power of hearing stories from people in our past.

Participating in The Great Thanksgiving Listen not only benefits the students, but acknowledges the importance of the people being interviewed. Their stories matter and should be preserved. After all, we are all part of history. When grandparents, great aunts or uncles, or a neighbor shares a story about overcoming a personal challenge or social barrier, students realize they can do the same. Hearing stories from people who are different from them can also inspire empathy and understanding.

I recently heard David Isay, the founder of StoryCorps speak at a conference. Listening to a few of the StoryCorps stories made me smile, cry, remember the people who are important in my life, and believe that the simple act of listening to other’s stories can make our diverse communities throughout the world more equitable and better places for everyone.

Please check out the StoryCorps website for more information about The Great Thanksgiving Listen. If you are unable to participate over the upcoming holiday weekend, Mr. Isay did mention that stories can be uploaded as part of the event through late December.

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