Students in grade two explore the lives of actual people who make a difference in their everyday lives. They differentiate between events that happened long ago and events that happened yesterday by studying their family histories. A number of projects are completed that preserve the past, capture the present, or impact the future, including analyzing information and drawing conclusions about how and why the world has changed. The unit concludes with students creating family history time capsules that preserve the past and present for the future.
View how a variety of student-centered assessments are used in the My Family: Past, Present, and Future Unit Plan. These assessments help students and teachers set goals; monitor student progress; provide feedback; assess thinking, processes, performances, and products; and reflect on learning throughout the learning cycle.
Prior to the Unit
Prior to the unit, create and update a class Web site to include project and assessment information as well as due dates and useful links for the unit. Send home a newsletter regarding the unit. A class vocabulary chart may need to be created as well that can be added to throughout the unit. Some words that may start the chart are: artifact, generation, preserve, impact, ancestors, history, past, present, future.
Introducing the Unit
Pose the Unit Question, How can I preserve the past, capture the present, and impact the future? Create a class chart with the following headings:
Preserve the Past
Capture the Present
Impact the Future
Remind students of the (year long) class Essential Question, How will I make a difference?
Tell students that over the next several weeks, the class will explore how families make a difference in people’s lives and how the students can make a difference in their family members’ lives.
Ask students to consider ways they might “make a difference” in their own families by preserving the past, capturing the present, and impacting the future. Discuss what these terms mean and why they are important using the vocabulary chart created earlier.
Have students brainstorm answers in pairs or small groups. Afterwards, have groups share with the large group and record all responses on a class chart. Refer to the chart often and add to it as the unit progresses.
Preserving the Past
Introduce the idea of a time capsule to students, and explain how they will be creating and gathering several artifacts to add to a time capsule to preserve their history.
Explain to students that one way to help preserve the past is by completing a family tree to include in their time capsules. Introduce the concept of a family tree and share an example. In addition to recording names and birthdates, students will also record traits and characteristics of each family member. Student use this information to complete Venn Diagrams to compare and contrast traits in order to determine how they are a like and different from their family members and as a resource (birth dates) for later research to compare what life was like when their relatives were their age.
Pass out the family tree worksheet. Discuss the items that students will be required to complete:
Have students take home and complete the family tree worksheet for homework. Throughout the next week, schedule students to share their family trees with the class. Later, the family trees will be added to the time capsules.
Relative or Ancestor Biography
Explain to students that they will also help preserve the past by creating a multimedia biography about a family member that made a difference. Students interview the person (if still alive) and/or other relatives to gather information about the person they have selected. Students also scan pictures and organize information into a persuasive and informational presentation that preserves the person’s past for future generations and defends their position that this person truly made a difference. Student presentations should address the following questions:
See the multimedia biography sample and then, as a class, brainstorm a list of questions that may be asked for the interview that covers the preceding requirements. Organize and type up a list of the core questions created by the class. Each student should use the questions for the interview, but they may add to the list as well. Check in with each student to be sure that they have decided on a family member to interview or collect information about. Students should have a time frame in which to complete these interviews, so they can begin working on their multimedia presentations in class. If available, have students videotape their interviews and include a clip in their final presentations.
Hand out the self-assessment for the multimedia biography, and review the checklist with the students. The self-assessment outlines the expectations for the project and should be used by students to monitor their progress. After students have completed their research, conducted their interviews, and are ready to create their presentations, assign time slots for them to work on the computer. Coordinate parent volunteers or older buddies to help students’ scan pictures and create the presentations. In addition, schedule time to conference with each student, review their self-assessment checklists, and answer any questions.
“How Have Things Changed” Graph
This activity helps students to both capture the past and begin to focus on the present.
Wrap up the activity by having students respond to the question, How is life different then and now?
As a class, discuss the Unit Question, In what ways has life changed since my parents and grandparents were my age? After some discussion, explain that to answer this question, groups will develop a research question that focuses on how life has changed since the time when their great grandparents, grandparents, and parents were young. Tell students that they must come up with a hypothesis about the group question as well. Model this with students by coming up with a class question and hypothesis.
Ask students, How can we determine if our hypothesis is correct? After some discussion, explain that each group should come up with at least four interview questions to help answer the group’s research question. Model with students the types of questions that will give them the best data. Have students focus on questions that will result in a numerical answer.
Next, assign students to groups and set them to work creating their research question, hypothesis, and interview questions. Meet with each group to monitor progress and answer any questions. For homework, have students interview at least four people using the question that their group has created.
The following day, students should combine their numbers with their group and create a graph to represent their data. Groups can use the graph template to record their data. Show students how to analyze their graphs, and draw some conclusions about their hypothesis. Allow each group to share their data and results. Have students include their graphs in their biography multimedia presentations.
Optional Extension: Some groups may want to extend their survey to a wider audience. With the help of parent volunteers or older buddies, students can design a Web site with a survey or use an online survey tool, like Survey Monkey* to gather more information. Groups can post their research question, hypothesis, and graph, and continue to collect data from the online surveys.
Capturing the Present
Return to the chart created at the beginning of the unit. Focus on the middle column, “Capturing the Present.” Remind students of the answers they came up with and ask them to generate any new ways they can think of to capture the present. Lead them into a discussion about recording one’s own life story and introduce the term autobiography.
Select and read an age-appropriate autobiography together, focusing on the types of narrative elements included, such as early years, school years, career, family, dreams, influential events or people, and accomplishments.
Pose the Essential Question again, How will I make a difference? Follow up with other questions such as:
Tell students that they will now have a chance to record their own life story. Pass out the autobiography checklist and review expectations for the project. Explain to students that this checklist should be used to help guide their progress while working. Hand out an autobiography storyboard to each student and have students begin drafting their own life story. Ask students to imagine their future as well as their past and present, and to project what the future might hold for them—career, family, accomplishments, and so forth. Remind students that autobiographies are a recorded history, so students should write their autobiographies as if the events (even their projected futures) have already happened. See autobiography sample. Meet with students periodically to review their checklists and monitor progress, and provide opportunities for students to receive peer feedback between drafts. Students should hand in their autobiography storyboards for your final review before publishing their autobiography on the computer.
NOTE: The following activities result in artifacts from the present that students add to their time capsules at the end of the unit. These activities can be completed as homework.
In this activity, students select and copy a favorite family recipe to include in a class cookbook and in their time capsule. Pass out the recipe handout which also includes a place for students to record traditions, special memories, or history related to the recipe. Go over the handout with students, explain expectations, and answer any questions that may arise. Have students take this home to fill out and bring back to class. In addition to adding the recipes to a class cookbook and to time capsules, students also bring their “dish” to school to share at the culmination of the unit. Parents and grandparents will be invited to a “Celebrating Our Families” night to come and see all the unit projects and sample the various family recipes.
Pose the Unit Question, Where did I come from, and where am I going? and explain to students that an easy way to answer this question is to create timelines. Use sample timelines to show students how the major events in a persons’ lifetime can be recorded. Show students that timelines can be set up in many ways. After examining and discussing a few sample timelines, have each student create a family timeline that captures important family events from the past and present, and includes what they hope is yet to be. Have student use the information they have gathered in their interviews and family tree to start filling in the past and present portions of their timeline. Have students continue to add to their timeline as they complete other projects in this unit.
Discuss the importance of traditions and how traditions help define families and preserve the past. Address the following questions:
Have each student create a family quilt square that represents a favorite family tradition. Combine each square to make a class quilt.
Impacting the Future
Pose the question, How can the past live on through me? To help students see how they can make a difference in their own family and impact the future, have them decide on and write about a new tradition they would like to start and pass on to the future generations. Have them add this to their autobiography.
Pose the question, What “treasures” help to tell your family’s story? To help answer this question, students create a family time capsule or treasure box that may include only 10 items from their family’s past and present. Boxes or other containers can be used as time capsules. The Web site www.mdhs.org/kids/timecapsule.html* has easy directions for creating a time capsule. Students should include all of their unit projects or copies of them in the time capsule, along with any other treasures that they feel would help to preserve their family history, capture their present, and impact the future. Have students use the time capsule checklist to provide descriptions of each object. Tell students to attach a description to each object. Their time capsules will be displayed and shared at their celebration night before being sealed and stored away.
Wrapping Up the Unit
Schedule times for students to share their completed biography presentations with the class. Use the biography rubric to assess the completed projects.
Finally, to wrap up the unit, hold a “Celebrating Our Families” night and invite parents and grandparents to come see all the completed unit projects and sample the various family recipes. Gives students the option to share their biography presentations. Also, provide opportunities for visitors to give feedback to students in recognition of their work.
Revisit the Essential Question, How can I make a difference? and the Unit Question, How can I preserve the past, capture the present, and impact the future? Have students respond to the questions either verbally or in writing.
English Language Learner
A teacher participated in the Intel® Teach Program, which resulted in this idea for a classroom project. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.
Grade Level: 2
Subjects: Social Studies, Math, Language Arts
Topic: Family History
Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Analysis, Synthesis
Key Learnings: Tracing History, Comparing Past and Present, Data Analysis
Time Needed: 3–4 weeks