These days, units on the family can include many fun classroom activities, but having children make the traditional family tree is usually no longer one of them. Families come in so many configurations that I feel a tree is no longer a workable way to think about families. In my classroom, I've discovered that family activities need to be broader and more accepting of the many types of families my students come from. I begin by distributing the Family Celebration Reproducible (PDF). below, to students, for them to take home and share with their families. Then we do the following activities, focusing on family structure, members, homes, and history. In all things, I encourage children to be proud of their families — no matter what the word family means to them.
To help students understand that families come in all shapes and sizes, start off with an activity where students create "button families." They can find buttons that match in some way, put them together into families, and glue them in a house made from construction paper. Once students have created their families, they can compare their button family members —
the buttons may be the same color, number of holes, shape, or sizes. Give each student a chance to share how the buttons in his or her "family" are related.
This activity will become a student favorite! Invite your students to create drawings of their families and rooms in their homes, then incorporate special "windows" (like in an Advent calendar) that highlight each family member. Here's how:
"One grandfather died just before I was born, the other passed away when I was just an infant," she says. "(My) book takes us to four different landscapes I love: the sea, the forest, the city, and the family. There's always a sense of nostalgia when I'm in one and not the other. I thought, 'Who else to bring to the places I miss the most than someone I most miss?' My grandfathers were alive for me even though I never had them in the flesh. My family still accorded them the love and respect as if they had been alive. And just as the grandfather in the book will forever live on in the boy's heart, my grandfathers will be with me always."