Conducting an Interview

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SWBAT ask an interview subject prepared questions, record the answers.

Big Idea

There is etiquette involved in asking personal questions, and interviewing takes practice.

Get Ready

This is Day 3 in our Biography Writing Unit. This is a big deal. Second graders going out into the school to interview adults is a daunting task.

However, second graders can participate in shared research, to work towards mastery of Writing Anchor Standard 7, “Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.”

The scaffold of learning is the SHARED research.  The students will be sent out in teams of four, to interview one person.  They will have a structured format to follow, and will be given time to choose and ask clarifying questions. And because the CCSS takes into consideration that “New technologies have …expanded the role that speaking and listening play in acquiring and sharing knowledge and have tightened their link to other forms of communication,” students will ask clarifying questions via email to their subjects after the interview takes place.

We have had a practice go, using the form, and me. Now I am setting the class up to head out and put into practice all our preparation for interviewing.  

This lesson is strongly aligned to writing standards 2.7 as the students participate in shared research (teams of four) and gather information (using interview questions.) The speaking and listening standards (2.1, 2.1a., 2.3) also come into play as interviewing is both a speaking and listening task. Students will be participating in collaborative conversations, using agreed upon protocols, and asking and answering questions to gather information.

Get Set

20 minutes

I direct children to gather to the rug.  As they settle down, I review our project:

Bring the interview form from yesterday that you highlighted one answer from me that you wanted to know more about.  Remember, our class is going to write biographies about the staff at school. People coming into our school often don’t know anything about the people who work here with you. When we complete the biographies about the adults in our school, we will display them in the entrance. You will be providing valuable information to students, parents and visitors to our school.  Yesterday our task was to create a list of questions we will ask the people we will write about and practice asking questions. We practiced on me! Do you know more about me than you did the day before? Now, I’m curious. What answers did you want more information about?

I quickly ask the children to form "knee circles" in groups of 4 or 5.

A knee circle is when each child in the group’s knee is barely touching the child on the right and left of him/her.  It is a handy trick to keep kids in smaller spaces and it almost forces eye contact of speakers and listeners.  It works for almost any size group as large as ten. I usually use it with 2, 3, or 4 students.

 When they are settled, I ask that they read the form we completed about me and consider the highlighted answers. I ask that they discuss what new information they want to know, or are confused about, and create one question to ask that they think will provide the needed information.  When they are ready to ask me clarifying questions, the leader of the group will raise a color chip I handed out to each group, signaling me that their group is ready. When all five teams are ready, I draw a corresponding colored marker from a cup and they begin asking me clarifying questions. I direct the students to write my additional answers on the back of their forms. I also caution all the students to listen and write down the information. They may want to use it when they write MY biography! After we have asked and answered five questions, one from each team, I ask the children to hand their interview forms to the leader of the team and send the team leaders to deposit the forms on my desk. I will keep them for the modeling lesson of writing the biography in a few days.



Go to Work

30 minutes

In the next part of the lesson, I place cards with names of the staff who have agreed( *See my email to staff in the resources) to be interviewed in four corners of the room.  One name I place in the center of the room.  I explain to the students that they will be working in NEW teams for this project, and that they will get some choice about who they interview. (Since I have coached the personnel involved that they may need to scribe for the students, I am not so worried about the group makeup supporting more challenged writers.) I randomly pull student names from a cup, or use the HAT, a randomized name generator the children love. As their name is called they move to one of the staff names. After four students collect at one staff member’s name, that team is full, and no one else may join.  I am always trying to give my students a chance to wiggle – my rule for sitting is 3 minutes times their age – and this activity provides some movement and efficiently creates the interview teams. 

I call the students to the rug and direct them to sit in “knee circles” with their newly created interview team.

In their knee circle, they are to take turns reading one part of the introduction of the handout (see resources). I always choose something arbitrary like “the person with the oldest brother” or the “person with the earliest birthday in the year” to start and then go clockwise from there. Precious learning time can be lost to squabbling over who goes first!

Students, your task is to read every word on your introduction page and on your interview form. You don’t want to miscue in front of the person you’re interviewing. Practice makes practically perfect! Take turns. You can even lightly write your name by the parts you will ask. If you are not asking a question, or answering a question, your job is to write the answer down. All the forms should get filled out. I will give you a clean copy for your real interview.


·        Pretend the person sitting on your right is the adult you are interviewing.

·        Say their name, look them in the eye and ask your question politely.

·        You won’t have to write down the answers, your friends will do that.

·        If you are the pretend adult, answer for yourself. Pretend you are an adult.

·        When your friends let you know they’ve finished writing, smile and say thank you.

·        It will be the next person’s turn.

·        Remember, you are to pretend the person on your right is the adult.

When all the statements on the introduction and questions on the interview form have been asked and answered, I tell the students to write MOCK INTERVIEW across their forms. They may take them home to discuss with their families.



10 minutes

Gather back to the rug.

Our closure activity is the last practice before the teams head out in the next few days. I will be opening my classroom door and sending my interview teams off to do their good work. I have made arrangements with five colleagues to expect them. We worked out times that the adults could meet with my students. They have practiced, they have structure, I provided support by emailing the involved staff to write down answers if they seem to be struggling.  This is the "dress rehearsal!"

Students, your task today was to practice reading the introduction page and your interview form and to practice writing down answers. This week you will leave me behind and conduct interviews! I know you will remember what to do because we practiced. Let's have a quick review of what you will do at your interview time.  

I lead the children through the steps again. We take turns. First we read the introduction sentences. Then we take turns asking the questions.  I quiz them with questions like:

  • Who writes down the answers?

  • What if you can’t spell a word?( Guess and go.)

  • What if the answer is really long? (Ask the grown up to help.)

  • What do you do when you’ve finished? (Thank them for their time and SHAKE their hand!)