Set Out Family Tree Homework Assignment

  • Computer with printer access
  • Family Tree Graphic Organizer printable
  • World map reproducible, about 8.5 x 11 inches
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Coming to America: The Story of Immigration or another picture book about immigrating to the United States
  • Pencils
  • Writing paper
  • Dry-erase or chalkboard
  • Family Pictures/Cuadros de Familia or another picture book that depicts distinct family traditions
  • Large world maps, at least 2
  • Multi-colored adhesive circles or small stickers
  • Optional: Transparency sheet
  • Optional: Yarn or ribbon
  1. Check your school calendar and decide on a date that you would like to hold the culminating event, Diversity Day. Plan to begin your unit approximately five weeks beforehand.
  2. Read through all of Lesson One's four parts thoroughly before you begin. Set up a timeline for each activity's due date. I recommend approximately two days be given for the interview, one week for the Family Tree Graphic Organizer, and one week for the Page From History. In the past I have been very successful beginning this unit right before Thanksgiving or the winter holidays and assigning all three pieces to be due after vacation. This works well because many students are able to gain insight from the extended family members they see during the holidays.
  3. Prepare the Family Interview questions (see Part One, Step 7) and the A Page From History assignment (see Part Three, Step 5). Cut and paste the text into word processing documents, then personalize each with your own formatting or clip art. Print and make a class set of copies (plus extras).
  4. Print and make a class set of copies (plus extras) of the Family Tree Graphic Organizer printable. Make a transparency if you plan to use this with an overhead for modeling.
  5. Use geography resources you have or one from my booklist to find a world map reproducible that can be printed on 8.5 x 11 inch paper and clearly outlines countries and continents. Make a class set of copies (plus extras).
  6. Display a clean sheet of chart paper you will use to list names of countries.
  7. Gather colored adhesive dots for the students to use on the maps. Use one color for every continent you have represented in your classroom. I use small star stickers.
  8. Optional: Cut several pieces of yarn students can use to link their hometown with their countries origin. Coordinate the yarn lengths with the size of the world map you will be using in Part Four and the distance of the country.

The directions for Lesson One are divided into teaching days, not consecutive calendar days. For example, Part One: Discovering Your Heritage is taught in two days, but the duration will be longer because there is a homework assignment involved that requires a few extra days for completion. You may also choose to overlap some of the parts in Lesson One.

Part One: Discovering Your Heritage

Duration: 2 days

Step 1: Read aloud and discuss the book Coming to America: The Story of Immigration or another book about immigrating to the United States.

Step 2: Tell students that for many years, America has been called a "melting pot." Discuss the possible meanings of that term with the class. Revisit the book you read in Step 1 to discuss the differences and similarities in the vast number of immigrants who have come to America.

Step 3: Introduce this famous quote from Jimmy Carter:

"We have become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams."

Introduce the definition of a mosaic.

Step 4: Discuss the differences between a "melting pot" and a "mosaic." Ask students why they believe the term "mosaic" may or may not be more accurate than "melting pot" when describing Americans. Inform students that they are an important part of the American mosaic.

Optional: Complete the Mosaic Americans activity in the Lesson Extensions section below. Choosing to do this activity may add one extra day to your timeframe.

Step 5: Ask students to share the country their ancestors originally came from. Record answers on a sheet of chart paper. From my experience, students in lower grades will often give you the name of a state or the name of any country they have heard of, regardless of their heritage. Redirect students who do not name countries, but record names of all countries given. Save this chart.

Step 6: Tell students that in order to find out more about their heritage, they will need to conduct an interview with an expert source, and the most informed expert would be a member of their very own family. Brainstorm different questions students could ask their parents or other family members in order to gather facts about their family background. Explain to students that they will gain the greatest information from open-ended questions.

Step 7: Distribute copies of the Family Interview to all students you created. Provide class time for students to write three to five more questions they want to ask a family member.

Family Interview Sample Text


Pick an adult in your family to interview. Tell that person the purpose of the interview is to gather information about your heritage and ancestors. Ask your questions and write down their responses. If the person you are interviewing is unable to answer the questions, try to find another family member who may have the information you need.

Name of person being interviewed:

Relationship (mother, grandfather, etc.):

  1. Tell me about my relatives/ancestors. What country/countries did they come from and when?

  2. What is my heritage? (Example: African American, Italian American, Chinese American, etc.)

  3. Tell me about the path one of our relatives took from another country or another part of the United States. How did that lead to us living in our hometown?

Make up at least three more of your own questions to ask. Each question should help you gain more information about your family's cultural background. Make sure you do not ask questions with yes/no answers.

Step 8: Allow approximately two days or a weekend for the interview to be completed at home.

Step 9: Have students share their interview findings with the class after they're completed.

Part Two: Your Family Tree

Duration: 1 day

Step 1: Draw a large picture of a tree on the board. Include roots and branches that extend outward.

Step 2: Ask students if they have ever heard of a family tree. Discuss what a family tree is and why the name is fitting. Make reference to the concepts of family roots and branches. Model the creation of a family tree by writing your name near the bottom of the tree trunk. Above your name write the names of your mother and father, explaining what you're doing. Continue labeling your tree back another generation or two in order to illustrate how these trees "branch out" with each prior generation.

Step 3: Distribute copies of the Family Tree Graphic Organizer printable. Together, have students fill their names in the very bottom blank at the base of the tree. Students can then fill in names of their brothers and sisters. Next, tell the class to fill in the first and last name of their father and mother on the appropriate blank line. Students may provide maiden names if possible. Stop students at this point.

Step 4: Establish a due date and have students complete the tree at home with the assistance of a family member. The expectation is that it will be carefully filled in to the best of their ability and neatly colored. I always keep extra copies of the Family Tree Graphic Organizer on hand and give students the option of using the first one as a rough draft and the second as their final copy. If you have students whose family situation leaves them unable to fill in a name at any level, modify the assessment of this activity to allow for only one side of the tree to be completed or for some blank lines to be acceptable.

Part Three: Your Family's Oral History

Duration: 1 day

Step 1: Introduce the book Family Pictures/Cuadros de Familia or another book of your choice that depicts distinct family traditions. Activate prior knowledge and ask for volunteers to define the word "tradition." Discuss the author's childhood traditions in her rural Hispanic American community as described in the story written in both English and Spanish. Point out that in writing this book, the author was recording her family's history.

Step 2: Ask students to share any of their family traditions with the class. Compare and contrast cultural influences in holiday traditions, the area in which most students are likely to have customs and traditions.

Step 3: Tell students that as they grow older it can be important to pass along family stories and traditions. Let them know that their own family has many valuable memories and stories that should be preserved for future generations.

Step 4: Inform students that they are about to become family historians. They will be listening to a story about their family and transcribing it for posterity. Hand out the A Page From History assignment. Go over the directions with the class. Establish a due date for the assignment to be completed at home and returned in a timely manner.

A Page From History Sample Text

In many families, stories are handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. Ask someone in your family — a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, etc. — to tell you a story about a relative or ancestor who came to America. Listen closely to the story.

The story should be of importance to your family and be related to your being here today. Examples include: how your grandparents met, why your family settled in your hometown, or why someone came to the United States in the first place.

Rewrite the story in your own words. Try to remember as much as you can about what you heard. You are recording your family's oral history. You may publish your story using the computer or in your neatest handwriting. This project will be due ______________.

Step 5: Allow students to share their stories with their classmates when they are completed and returned to school.

Part Four: Charting Their Course

Duration: 1–2 days

Step 1: After the interviews and A Page From History stories have been returned, discuss with your class what they have learned about their family's heritage. Revisit the country list that was created on chart paper in Part One, Step 5. Ask the class to once again share the countries in their cultural background. Add or cross off countries on the original list as needed.

Step 2: Using a large world map, work with students in small groups, having each child put one adhesive sticker on every country listed in their interview as part of their heritage. You may choose to color code the dots, one color for each continent. For an even stronger visual impact, have students attach yarn or ribbon to one end of their dot and secure the other end of yarn to your current hometown with a second sticker.

Step 3: Compare and contrast where the stickers have been placed. Which countries and continents have the most stickers? Do members of your classroom seem to have similar or different backgrounds? Discuss how the map may look if this activity had been done in classrooms in other parts of the world or even in other parts of the country or your state.

Step 4: Using a transparency of a world map, or a large write-on wall map (without stickers on it!) model how they are going to chart the path that a member(s) of one side of their family took from a foreign country to their hometown. For example, I would make a dot in Krakow, Poland where my grandfather was born, because he was the nearest family member born outside of the U.S. I would explain that he immigrated to New York, so I would put a second dot there. Next, he moved to northern Michigan where my father was born, so I would plot a point there. My next dot would be in Detroit where my father moved to from northern Michigan and met my mother. I grew up in Romeo, Michigan so I would put a dot there. I currently live in Rochester Hills, Michigan, so my final "hometown" dot would be placed there. Finally, I would take a ruler and "connect the dots" in order to show the class how my ancestry has led me from another country to where I live today. While you're modeling, remind students not to include every city where their family has lived, only those of significance.

Step 5: Hand out the world map copies and ask students to use the information they've learned to mark their plot points on the map, and then connect them with a ruler. When completed, these lines should lead from a foreign country to the child's hometown. Some students in your classroom may have very few dots to plot on their maps if they immigrated recently. Because those children will be complete their maps quickly, have them act as peer coaches.

I have had great success teaching this lesson with students at all ability levels and learning styles. While teaching the different parts of this lesson, please be sensitive and accommodating toward varying family structures in your classroom. When the unit begins, I let my students know that heritage is defined as the customs and traditions that are passed on from generation to generation. Never allow children who are adopted or from a non-traditional family setting to think for one moment that they do not know their true heritage. Make it clear to all students that your heritage comes not from your bloodlines, but from the cultural traditions you are brought up with.

There are multitudes of extras you can do with your students when teaching a multicultural unit. Some ideas include:

Bilingual Students
Your students who speak a second language may want to publish their Page From History in both of their languages just like the author of Family Pictures did. It would also be appropriate for students to write the story in one language and for their parents to translate the story to a second language.

Classroom Décor
When teaching this unit, I have students decorate our room and the school hallways with crafts from around the world. Working with parents or your school's art teacher, consider introducing your class to multicultural crafts such as Native American sand painting, Oriental scroll painting, Scandinavian quilling or Columbian weaving. See my booklist for resources you can use to bring out the creative side of your students.

Students can extend the Charting Their Course Activity by plotting points on both the maternal and paternal sides of their family. The plot points from the two different lineages would come together wherever their mother and father settled together.

Mosaic Americans
During this project, students create one "American" made up of several different people the students find in magazines. In the top half of a sheet of construction paper, have students draw a large oval that will be the head of their "Mosaic American." On the bottom half of the paper students draw an outline of their person's body, including arms, legs, hands and feet. Going through magazines, students tear out several pictures of people. Tell your students to search for as many different skin tones as they can find. Have students cut out the prominent facial features they will need for their person such as two eyes, a nose, mouth, and ears. Instruct the students that no two features should come from the same person's picture. Next, have students cut the skin colored pieces they have found into small squares (anywhere from between one half to one inch wide.) Working with one small part of their person at a time, students should spread liquid glue over a small area then cover it with the cut pieces of varying skin tones. The facial features should be glued on top of the skin that has been laid down. Once the face is completed, students can use other colors from the magazine to design an outfit, shoes and/or hairstyle for their person. After their Mr. or Mrs. Mosaic American is finished, have students cut them out and name them. Before displaying these multicultural people, I have students write a brief personal narrative explaining what it means to them to live in country that is like a "beautiful mosaic."

Persuasive Paper
Students can write a persuasive paper taking a stand on whether the United States should limit the number of immigrants who can enter America each year.

You will need more than usual parental support for this lesson. Students must be able to find a reliable family member/adult who can give them accurate information about their ancestors. With each piece of homework that goes home with your students during this lesson, provide a note for the parents explaining exactly what their child is expected to do and how they can help. You may want to ask parent volunteers to come in to help students during Part Four while the students plot their ancestors' path to America. Many students may have geographical questions and parent volunteers will allow more students to be assisted in a timely manner.

  • Write a minimum of three interview questions about their heritage
  • Conduct an interview with a family member and transcribe all answers on their paper
  • Work with an adult to label at least three generations on a family tree graphic organizer
  • Listen to a story about their family history, write it down, and publish it
  • Chart the path their ancestors took before them that has led them to their hometown today
  • Were students able to write questions that would provide them with important information about their families?
  • Were students able to use follow directions and use the Family Tree Graphic Organizer effectively?
  • Did the students choose an appropriate story to publish for their Page From History? Was the story clear, sequential, easy to understand, and relevant?
  • Did students correctly locate the countries of their heritage on a world map?
  • Was the work that was completed the students' own?
  • Once the assignments became homework, were students responsible for their own learning?

Family Tree Lesson Plans
and Family Tree Newspaper

This five page banner is included for free in this set of Family Tree lesson plans and teaching resources.

Family Tree Lesson Plans Set
Includes family tree templates and
creative writing newspaper teaching resources.


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Classroom Display of Students' Finished Family Tree Projects

Example of Family Tree Project Templates Assembled Together

Are you looking for a unique idea and way for your students to create their own family trees? Have you used traditional one page worksheets for this activity in the past?

I have created a Family Tree lesson plans set that will have your students excited and branching out to learn about the members in their own family trees.

In order to assemble the tree, there are two branch templates and a trunk template that are glued together to form a family tree that measures 18 inches in height and 13 inches in width.

Explain to your students that each family is different and their "planning worksheet" (shown below) is meant to help them plan their family tree. Students may have to add additional boxes if there are more members in certain sections of their family tree.

I designed this family tree project so that it is not too taxing on parents to help their child with the names required for this project. Parents should know the names of their own brothers and sisters and their children, their mothers and fathers, and their own aunts and uncles (hopefully!)

If you want to go farther back in the family tree for your students' projects (great grandparents, great cousins, etc), there are blank leaves so that you can add this component to your students' projects.

Below is an example of the family tree planning worksheet.

This set of family tree lesson plans includes two branch templates and one trunk template.

When these 3 templates are assembled together, the Family Tree measures 18 inches in height and 13 inches in width.

The Family Tree is divided into two parts:
the left side is for the mother's family and the right side is for the father's family.

There are 6 branches for the key family members: mother, maternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, father, paternal grandmother, and paternal grandfather.

The student leaf is already on the trunk and students should glue leaves for their brothers and sisters in this same trunk area.

After the three pieces of the tree have been assembled, students glue the vertical title "My Family Tree" in the middle of the tree.

There are two sizes of leaves. The larger leaves are for the closest family members: student, brothers, sisters, mother, father, and four grandparents. The student, mother, father, and 4 grandparent leaves are already on the branch templates. (see above)

The smaller leaves (see below) are for the more distant members of their family tree: aunts, uncles, cousins, great uncles, and great aunts. You will need to print out extra worksheets of the leaves because some students will need more leaves for their brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, great uncles, and great aunts.

Below I have provided a large visual example of how this family tree project works to illustrate the members of a person's family.

This is an example of the mother's branch. The mother's leaf is already on this left branch. Directly opposite (not shown), on the right hand branch, is the father's leaf.

Students write the names of each family member inside each leaf.

For this example, the mother has one brother and one sister, and these family members are the student's uncle and aunt. The student glues an aunt and uncle leaf onto the mother's branch.

The uncle has one child, so one cousin leaf is glued in this place. The aunt has two children, so two cousin leaves are glued in this place. The cousin leaves should be glued so that they are touching their parent's leaf.

If you use this format in gluing the leaves on the tree, a student may have a branch that only has their mother's leaf on it, if their mother has no brothers or sisters. On the other hand, the father's branch might be very full if he has 6 brothers and sisters, and they have a lot of children.

This unique family tree project provides a very good visual image for your students of what their family tree actually looks like.

In the example below, this student has 16 leaves/family members on her mother's side of the family and 20 leaves/family members on her father's side of the family.

Family Tree Lesson Plans Project

There is a set of Family Tree color templates (shown below) for you to use for your example that you share with your students provided in this set of Family Tree teaching resources.

It is a bit time consuming to color all the branch and leaf templates. I hope that these color printable worksheets help save you time in designing your own example that you display for your students so that they understand how to complete these fun Family Tree projects.

I have provided blank branch, trunk and leaf templates in this set of family tree lesson plans so that you can have your students design this project in any way in which you choose.

In this set of templates, the names of the family members are not written on any of the leaves and the 6 closest family members' leaves are not already included on the branches.

These family tree lesson plans work well in conjunction with a social studies unit. While students are studying a particular event in history, they could be discovering about their own roots and creating their own family tree.

This assignment works well as a week long homework activity for students to complete at home with the help of their parents. Parents will enjoy working on this very different type of homework assignment with their child and sharing information with their son or daughter about the members of their own family.

You will be amazed at your students' finished Family Tree projects and the creative ideas that they incorporate into their individual projects.

Below: This student has included photographs of her family members on her family tree project. I love that she has included photographs of her dogs laying in the grass and that she considers her dogs as important members of her family.

I try to always include a creative writing component to any assignment when I get the chance. My students need all the writing practice that I can squeeze into my lessons.

While my students are finding out the names of the members of their family tree from their mothers and fathers, I have my students ask each of their parents to share something interesting about one member of their family they may never have heard about before.

Then, my students create a newspaper and it contains two articles. One article is about a member from their mother's side of their family tree, and the other article is about a member from their father's side of the family.

I have included all of the components of this Family Tree Newspaper in this set of Family Tree lesson plans.

This Family Tree Newspaper set includes an assembling
printable worksheet and a grading rubric.

This Family Tree Newspaper teaching resources
set includes three first draft worksheets.

Students write two newspaper articles about someone on their mother's side of their family and then on their father's side of their family.

Students also have to create a comic strip for their newspapers about something interesting that happened to someone who is in their family tree.

Below is an example of two of the three
first draft printable worksheets.

For the final drafts of their newpaper projects, students have two templates that are glued together to form a large Family Tree Times Newspaper.

After the templates have been assembled together, the student newspaper project measures 13 inches in height and 10 inches in width.

There are color final draft templates of this Family Tree Times Newspaper
for you to use for your example that you show to your students.

Finally, this Family Tree Times Newspaper set includes a
5 page bulletin board banner for you to use for your
classroom display of these newspaper projects.

This 5 page bulletin board banner is included in this set of family tree lesson plans.

Family Tree Lesson Plans Set
Includes family tree templates and
creative writing newspaper teaching resources.


Click on the Add to Cart button above to purchase this set of teaching resources.
This creative writing project will be emailed to you and then you can download it instantly.
Print as many copies as you want! Save and reuse forever!

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