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Louisiana Voices Educator's Guide  
Getting Started With This Guide  
Study Guide Summary  
Outline of the Study Guide  
Study Unit I Defining Terms  
Study Unit II Fieldwork Basics  
Study Unit III Discovering the Obvious: Our Lives as "The Folk"  
Study Unit IV The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor  
Study Unit V Oral Traditions--Swapping Stories  
Study Unit VI Louisiana's Musical Landscape  
Study Unit VII Material Culture-The Stuff of Life  
Study Unit VIII The Worlds of Work and Play  
Study Unit IX The Seasonal Round and Life Cycles  
Educator's Links  
Louisiana Voices Milestones  
Educator's Guide Glossary  
Educator's Guide Credits
Educator's Opportunities For Professional Development  
Join The Community
Louisiana Folklife website

Louisiana Folklife Program

Louisiana's Living

            Traditions: Articles, Photos and Virtual Exhibits about Louisiana Folklife  

Unit II Outline:

Fieldwork Basics Overview

Classroom Applications of Fieldwork Basics

Lesson 1: Getting Positioned for Fieldwork (this page)

Lesson 2: The Practice Interview

Lesson 3: Interviewing a Community Guest

Lesson 4: Terms in the Field

Lesson 5: Making Use of Fieldwork

Unit II Resources


Unit II
Classwork Applications of Fieldwork Basics

Lesson 1 Getting Positioned for Fieldwork

To make a good roux, constant stirring is a must. Don't answer the door if there's a knock, and don't answer the phone if it rings -- a roux needs constant attention, so keep your eyes riveted to the inside of the pot the whole time. Start with slightly more flour than oil, making a cream-colored paste. About halfway through the process, the roux will become more liquid, but it will thicken to paste consistency again as it is near completion. Remember, stick with your stirring spoon.

--Maude Ancelet, Lafayette Paris

Grade Levels


Curriculum Areas

English Language Arts, Social Studies


Purpose of Lesson

Students are introduced to interviewing and fieldwork through a student essay and activities that will help them understand the Interviewer's task of examining his or her position in fieldwork through observation and questioning. Students learn about themselves and cultural assumptions through observation and the interview process.


Lesson Objectives/Louisiana Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Foundation Skills

  1. Students gain an overall understanding of fieldwork through reading and discussing an essay.
    ELA-1-E1  Gaining meaning from print and building vocabulary using a full range of strategies (e.g., self-monitoring and correcting, searching, cross-checking), evidenced by reading behaviors while using the cueing systems (e.g, phonics, sentence structure, meaning). (1, 4)

    ELA-1-M3  Reading, comprehending, and responding to written, spoken, and visual texts in extended passages. (1, 3, 4)

    ELA-1-M5  Using purposes for reading (e.g., enjoying, learning, researching, problem solving) to achieve a variety of objectives. (1, 2, 4, 5)

  2. Students conduct observation on school grounds and formulate summary statements.
    ELA-4-M4   Speaking and listening for a variety of audiences (e.g., classroom, real-life, workplace) and purposes (e.g., awareness, concentration, enjoyment, information, problem solving). (1, 2, 4, 5)

    ELA-5-M3   Locating, gathering, and selecting information using graphic organizers, outlining, note taking, summarizing, interviewing, and surveying to produce documented texts and graphics. (1, 3, 4)

  3. Students work in pairs to examine their own position as cultural insiders and outsiders, as they investigate their own and others' photographs or objects.
    ELA-6-M1  Identifying, comparing, and responding to United States and world literature that represents the experiences and traditions of diverse ethnic groups. (1, 4, 5)

    ELA-7-M3   Analyzing the effects of an author's purpose and point of view. (1, 2, 4)

    H-1D-M6  Examining folklore and describing how cultural elements have shaped our state and local heritage. (1,3,4)

Time Required

3-5 days



Before beginning this unit, access the Interview Folder -- For the Teachers, Field Kit -- For Teachers, and Archive Folders webpages and follow the directions to prepare them for all students. When completed, they contain all the materials, forms, equipment, and storage needed for all the lessons in this unit. Having them ready will make this unit flow easily, as well as simplify the process for your students.

Decide if the students will read the Conducting an Interview Essay online or if you need to print copies. Other materials needed for this lesson include a special object to share with students, the Interview Checklist, "I Learned" computer template, camera, paper and pencils or pens for recording observations. Print and duplicate the Worksheets and Assessment Tools listed below.


Technology Connections

Internet Resources

Conducting an Interview Essay

Adaptation Strategies


Student Worksheets

Interview Folder -- For the Teachers (for teachers)

Interview Folder -- List of Contents (for students)

Interview Checklist

Conducting an Interview Evaluation

Insider / Outsider Worksheet

Field Kit -- For Teachers (for teachers)

Field Kit List of Contents (for students)

Archive Folders (for teachers)

Archive Folders List of Contents (for students)

Listening Log - Community Soundscapes

Photograph / Special Object Worksheet

Photo Clues Worksheet

Venn Diagrams

What's the Context Worksheet


Assessment Tools

Interview Checklist

Conducting an Interview Evaluation

Fieldwork Rubric


Evaluation Tools/Opportunities


  1. Interview Checklist
  2. Observation notes
  3. Journal notes, questions, conclusions



  1. Summary statements from school observations
  2. "I Learned" reports
  3. Conducting an Interview Evaluation - graded by teacher



  1. "Keys to Successful Observations" reports
  2. "I Learned" reports
  3. Listening Log - Community Soundscapes
  4. Insider / Outsider Worksheets
  5. Photograph / Special Object Worksheet
  6. Photo Clues Worksheet


Background Information for the Teacher

Fieldwork refers to the methods folklorists and other social scientists use to identify and study traditional culture through directly observing and documenting tradition bearers and cultural processes. In short, fieldwork includes observation, interviews, photography, audio recording, video recording, sketching, research, and interpretation of the customs and traditions within a community. Students may find themselves asking grandparents about a cure for hiccups, observing an elder prepare a special food, talking to family members about a holiday tradition, or researching how a boat builder or net maker has learned and practiced a craft.

Fieldwork allows you to enhance your curriculum through the study of local culture. Students participate in hands-on, integrated projects that increase their understanding of living cultural traditions and also provide intriguing materials for improving decoding, literacy, math, ethics, social skills, reading, and writing.

When we think of fieldwork, we usually think first of the face-to-face interview with a community member. However, fieldwork consists of more than the interview and fieldworkers must do a good deal of preliminary work before that actual interview. They must identify and observe appropriate sites; conduct research before entering the field; identify, locate, and schedule Interviewees for appointments; prepare equipment and forms; formulate questions; and analyze the fieldworker's various research positions.

At the beginning of this unit on fieldwork, students gain an overall view of the fieldwork process by reading and discussing the essay Conducting an Interview. It is written at approximately 8th grade level. For students having difficulty reading at this level, access the Adaptation Strategies for ideas on how to help them understand and learn the content in the essay.

Once they have gained this overall perspective, break the process down into three steps: (1) observation, (2) positioning, and (3) processing the knowledge and skills learned into a presentation.

Students develop observation skills through activities that encourage keen looking and listening, then summarizing findings and conclusions. The process of self-analysis in preparation for fieldwork is known as positioning. Fieldworkers need to determine whether their own personal information and experiences could bias results; whether the language they use for writing about findings is appropriate, and whether they are writing as an insider or outsider.

Getting positioned for fieldwork challenges students to examine their pre-existing assumptions and to understand more thoroughly what it means to be an outsider or insider of a given folk group. An insider interviewer, a person from within a folk group, will probably have some pre-existing knowledge of the traditions held dear. An outsider must observe from without and consider his or her pre-existing assumptions about a group being studied. This is one benefit of having students conduct folklife fieldwork.

Fieldworkers must ask appropriate questions to gain more knowledge to help dispel cultural stereotypes. An insider's view of folklife will necessarily differ from outsiders' views. What's more, not everyone within a folk group will agree about a tradition, nor will everyone practice it identically. There is great diversity within folk groups. Certainly, respecting Interviewees' beliefs about their culture is important. Folklife is not only a vehicle for positive and celebratory cultural expressions but also for more troublesome beliefs such as stereotyping or prejudice.

Students will easily understand the concept of "Insider / Outsider" when they think of their own groups of friends, but you'll want to stress how they can be "insiders" in some groups and "outsiders" in others as they shift positions. Sometimes we can feel like outsiders in a group to which we've belonged for a long time. Whenever we join a new group, we feel like outsiders at first. The same thing happens when a folklorist begins fieldwork in a different culture.

To help students understand this concept, they are asked to observe closely, from both insider and outsider positions, photographs or objects that they bring to class. This exercise illustrates the usefulness of student resources for localizing your curriculum, the importance of effective questioning, and the influence that our insider or outsider perspectives have on knowledge acquisition and interpretation. For the last step, processing information into a presentation, students will complete an "I Learned" template on computers to present their findings, then print and post them around the classroom.


To Prepare

Think of a story to tell about a time when you felt like a true outsider. Bring a special photo or object of yours about which students will have no pre-existing knowledge. Adapt materials and exercises to target your students reading level.


4th and 8th Grade Activities

Introduction to Fieldwork

  1. Introduce students to the concept of fieldwork by having them read Conducting an Interview. This essay introduces the basics of conducting interviews. Have students return to this essay throughout all five lessons of this unit. It is written for 8th grade reading level, so you may need to adapt this essay to your students' reading level or select excerpts. Visit the Adaptation Strategies page for help in this area. Review the Interview Checklist with the students, as a means of summarizing the essay's major ideas.

  2. Discuss the essay with students: What parts of fieldwork seem easy to them? What seems like it's going to be hard? Has anyone ever done fieldwork for another class? If so, have them share their experiences. Remind students that you will be providing them ample opportunity to practice interviewing with each other in Unit II Lesson 2 and with a classroom guest in Unit II Lesson 3 before they interview someone outside the classroom in Unit II Lesson 4. Also stress that fieldwork leads to products, such as presentations, papers, posters, websites, bulletin boards, stories. In the products, they share with others what they have learned and what the fieldwork means.


  1. The first principle of fieldwork to stress is "look and listen before you speak!" Assign students to conduct a 10-minute observation at school. This can be done in the hallway, at recess, in the cafeteria at lunchtime, wherever. Tell students to take down simple notes on what they observe. They should concentrate on just observing, and not judging or forming an opinion. Encourage them to use all five senses in this observation. Then have students complete a Listening Log - Community Soundscapes about the place they observed.

  2. After students complete their observations and Listening Logs, ask them to go over their notes and review what they observed and heard. Have them write three to five statements to summarize their findings. Then have them discover which actions helped them "look and listen" more carefully and accurately. Ask the class to come up with "Keys to Successful Observations" to be shared with another class.

Positioning with a Photo or Object

  1. After students observe on the school grounds, focus on the concepts of insider and outsider, mentioned in the student essay they read. Begin by telling a story of your own about a time when you felt like a real outsider—perhaps a time when you first joined a new group, how you felt in the beginning, and how you feel now. Ask if they felt like an insider or outsider—or a bit of both—at the place they observed. Talk about a time when you were an insider by showing your photo or object to the students. First ask them to observe the photo or object and to take notes on what they see. Then instruct them to ask you questions about it. Explain why this object is important to you, from an insider's point of view. Ask students to tell you how they feel like an outsider when they look at your photo or object. Explain that when outsiders apply their assumptions about another person or group to the whole cultural group, this is called "cultural stereotyping." This is often seen in jokes or cartoons. It is important to stress at this point that lots of pertinent information can be gained during observation, such as aesthetics, history, and context.

  2. After sharing your story, ask students about times when they have felt like insiders and outsiders. Some discussion questions to consider are: What groups of people are you most comfortable with? Have you ever told a story differently to a friend than to a stranger? What things would a close friend know about you that a stranger wouldn't?

  3. Assign students to bring a special photo or object to class for the next activity. They should not bring something irreplaceable!

  4. Pair students off to interview each other about the special photos or objects. Before they start talking, first have them complete the Insider / Outsider Worksheet in relation to their partners. What do they already know that makes them an insider? What don't they know about their partner, making them an outsider?

  5. After the students have thought about their positions in relation to their partners, distribute the Photograph / Special Object Worksheet. Allow 10 minutes for students to complete Part 1, when they write about their own object from an insider's point of view. Then ask students to exchange objects with a partner, interview each other, and complete Part 2, allowing 15 to 20 minutes. Students will need the Photo Clues Worksheet for this section. After the students have interviewed each other, ask them to complete Part 3, filling in the blanks provided. Have some of them share their responses with the class.

Processing Information into a Presentation

  1. On a computer, make a template of Part 3 of the Photograph / Special Object Worksheet and label it "I Learned." Have each student open the template and respond by filling in the blanks. Then have them draw, scan, or take a digital photograph of their partners holding the photo or object and paste it into the document, then save it to an individual file, named "I Learned." Print each student's "I Learned" file, complete with photograph, and post around classroom.

  2. Have students read over their Conducting an Interview Evaluation and check off the steps they have learned in this lesson. If desired, check them yourself and administer grades.

  3. If you plan to use the Fieldwork Rubric to grade students at the end of the unit, review it with them now. Tell them that they will be assessed at the end of the unit on their ability to prepare carefully, practice needed skills, conduct fieldwork productively and accurately, process and archive materials properly, and present their findings. They can refer to the rubric as they work on Lessons 2 - 5 to be prepared for the evaluation.


4th and 8th Grade Explorations and Extensions

  1. Continue your discussions with Venn Diagrams. This will allow you to analyze similarities with and differences from each other.

  2. Write a paragraph about what you did over the weekend for a good friend. Then rewrite the paragraph for a stranger. List what information a stranger needed that a friend didn't need.

  3. Come up with a list of experiences when you felt like an insider, and a list of experiences when you felt like an outsider.

  4. Continue discussion of special objects by completing the What's the Context Worksheet at home.

  5. Walk around your neighborhood with a notebook, writing down whatever grabs your attention. Select a spot where you can observe people and activities and use precise detail in describing objects, movements, speech, shapes, smells, and colors.

  6. Further hone observation skills with activities in Unit VII Lesson 1 Reading Artifacts and Unit VII Lesson 2 Teaching and Learning Through Objects and the Useful or Beautiful Worksheet and the Class Consensus Worksheet. Also use activities in VIII Lesson 1 On the Job and the I Spy Worksheet, which uses the work of self-taught painters.

  7. Additional activities on insider and outsider perspectives are included in Unit VII Lesson 1 Reading Artifacts.

  8. For more on using photographs in the classroom, see Unit III Lesson 3 Activity 3 Family Photos.


Unit II Resources

Unit II Outline


National Endowment for

            the Arts.

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