Lesson Plans: Grades 3-5

Where I Come From

Created October 7, 2010


The Lesson


Where I Come From: Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty

Credit: Photograph courtesy of the National Park Service

In this lesson, students take research into their heritage a step beyond the construction of a family tree, traveling through cyberspace to find out what's happening in their ancestral homelands today and explore their sense of connection to these places in their past.

Guiding Questions

What parts of the world has your family come from? What is life like there today? What are your feelings about these places your family once called home?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify the countries and cultures that are part of their family heritage
  • Locate these places on a map
  • Report on life in these places today
  • Characterize their sense of attachment to these places in their past

Preparation Instructions

  • This lesson plan consists of four learning activities that you can use together as a unit or adapt separately to your curricular needs.
  • Review the suggested activities, then download and duplicate any online materials you will need. If desired, you can bookmark specific web pages so that students can access relevant online materials directly. (See Selected EDSITEment Websites for a guide to locating online materials.)
  • For guidance on presenting and exploring lessons on family history, visit The Learning Page at American Memory, which includes America Dreams and other resources on immigration and ancestry in addition to many more topics.

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. A Family Travel Log

Begin by having students talk to a parent about the countries and cultures that are part of their family history. Ask students to create a family "travel log" with one page set aside for each place where members of their family have lived in the past. Encourage students to ask their parents for information about their family's experiences in each of these places and to record these facts on the appropriate pages of their travel logs.

Activity 2. Mapping Your Past

In class, arrange for students to research the places their families have come from using the online resources of the Xpeditions website.

  • Have students use the Atlas section of the site to find and print out maps of the places that are part of their family history, which they can then add to their travel logs and mark or color to show where their ancestors lived (if they have this information).
  • Students can also use the "Flags and Facts" feature of the National Geographic Map Machine to gather background on the history and geography of the places their families come from, and include this information in their travel logs as well.
  • You might also have students mark the places that are part of their family history on a whole class world map, to help them discover geographical connections.
Activity 3. What's New in the Old Country?

Next, have students find out what life is like in their ancestral homelands today by reading online news reports from those countries and cultures. In addition to political and breaking news, online news sources offer sports reports, feature stories, entertainment news, and even weather forecasts. EDSITEment provides links to online news reports from virtually any part of the world, many of which are available both in English and in the language of the originating country. Use these links to find news sources for the students in your class:






As they "visit" each country or culture through these news sources, have students collect souvenirs for their travel logs -- pictures, advertisements, charts, cartoons, news clippings, and surprising facts. Then have them organize their souvenirs to create an online (or conventional) travel album, a virtual tour with commentary, or as a series of emails from imaginary relatives to family members in the United States. Share these projects in class, inviting students to compare their impressions of homelands they share and comment on the differences (and similarities) between life in other regions and their lives in the United States.

Activity 4. A Place to Call Home

Finally, have each student choose one country or culture from their family history for extended study, setting aside time each week when they can deepen their acquaintance with this part of their heritage. (Students of similar heritage might conduct this research in small groups.) In addition to online news sources, students can use library resources to learn more about the history and geography of their chosen region, and can interview family members to learn about traditions that link them to this place in their past. Have students keep a journal or digital diary as they explore, where they can collect additional "souvenirs" and reflect on their feelings about their ancestral lands. What stirs pride in their cultural heritage? What gives them a new perspective on who they are? After four weeks, have students organize their research to produce an essay or computer presentation that introduces others to the place they have studied and highlights what makes it feel like a place they could call home.te their message to you) telling a distant relative about life in a sod house on the plains.

Extending The Lesson

Continue your travels through family history by having students explore their literary heritage create anthologies of stories, poems, songs, and folktales from all the countries and cultures in their past. Divide the class into small groups that share a similar heritage, or have each group gather examples of a single genre from several cultures and report on similarities and differences they discover. Resources for the study of world literature are available through EDSITEment at Asia Source, AskAsia, African Studies WWW, the Bucknell Russian Studies Department, the Center for the Liberal Arts, the Goethe Institute, Ile en ile, LANIC (Latin American Network Information Center), Lire les femmes ecrivains et les litteratures africaines, NativeWeb, and SARAI (South Asia Resource Access on the Internet).


Selected EDSITEment Websites

African Studies WWW

The Basics

Time Required

1 class periods

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Africa
  • History and Social Studies
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Europe
  • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. History
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Asia
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Immigration/Migration
  • Analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Map Skills
  • Research
  • Synthesis