Thursday, October 4, 2012


Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.
~ Anthony Brandt

The topic this week is family words - you know: mother, father, son, daughter, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew, etc.

Our very first step is to go over the basic vocabulary - typically, many of my students already know some of these words - so I start by asking how to say things in English and only tell them the answer if no one knows it.  

Then I do a whole class activity that I created myself.  I drew a family tree in Power Point (not as easy as it sounds, it turns out!) and I project this family tree onto the white board (plus I give each student a handout with the same tree).

Interestingly - and this was a surprise to me, my first year - the family tree representation is not an obvious one to many of my students.  I have to spend some time talking through how to interpret it and how to trace through it to figure out the relationship between two people.  Is this an American thing, do you think?  

Once I've gone over how to read the tree, I make statements about the relationships between pairs of people in the tree - things like "Pablo's mother is Sophia" (true) and "Selena's mother is Sophia" (false).  For each of my statements, the students have to hold up cards (printed on card stock) that either say "TRUE" or "FALSE."

Of course, I start with close relationships (immediate family) and slowly move on to more and more distant relationships.  

I have them hold up cards, rather than raise their hands or shout out answers, in order to force each student to respond to all of the items.  If I go with one of the other methods, then a few of the confident and assertive students dominate and some of the timid ones just coast...  ;)

Listening comprehension skills are important, but I always want to have a small group activity after the whole class activity, to get them talking.  Over the summer, I purchased a handful of activity workbooks and I found these two activities that I am going to try for the first time this week:

I'm going to start with an activity from this book.  In stage one, students use relationship cards (that say things like "Charlie is Susan's brother") to help arrange these pictures into a family tree.  

In stage two, they go through a set of cards that just list names, like "George - Charlie" and have to use the family tree to generate the relationship ("George is Charlie's father").  (The correct answers are on the backs of these cards, so they can check themselves.)  

In theory, I think this is a really good activity - I like the fact that it makes them work both forward and backward.  

In practice...?   We'll see!  ;)

For the students that finish the previous activity early, I have a more advanced activity, from this book.  Each student in the pair gets a picture of a family tree.  The 2 trees are similar, but contain 12 differences - the differences can be in the names, ages and/or professions of the people in the tree.  The students have to ask each other questions in English and figure out what the differences are.  

Here is a picture of one of the family trees:

This exercise is more difficult because it requires more vocabulary and they have to generate language without as many helpful constraints - there are tons of different questions they could ask and different ways to ask them...

Keep your fingers crossed and I'll let you know how it goes!  :)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you! Planning an Italian family unit and will use some of these ideas.