“Who’s Who in My Family?” by Loreen Leedy – Lesson Plan Ideas, Family Tree Diagram Activity, and Discussion Questions
For this month’s Kids’ Book Club we’re reading Loreen Leedy’s book, Who’s Who in My Family Tree? It’s perfect for teaching kids about family tree diagrams, second cousins, great uncles, and great grandparents, and you can even create a fun family tree when you’re done reading.
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Who’s Who in My Family is about students in Ms. Fox’s class cutting, gluing, creating family trees and sharing them with the class. First, Sandy Fuzz shares her family tree. She tells about her parents and what she was like as a baby. She introduces her siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, great aunts, great uncles, and great grandparents, including what she likes to do with each relative. When she explains a new relationship, the illustration includes a close-up of that section on her family tree diagram.
Next, Raccoon tells about being adopted. Frog tells how his parents got divorced and introduces his step-dad. Rabbit tells about his stepbrothers and stepsisters. Squirrel has a half-brother and half-sister. At the end, the children ask the teacher questions like “what is a second cousin?”
Who’s Who in My Family is best for teaching children these family history objectives:
-Understand family tree diagrams and charting family relationships
-Appreciate different kinds of families
-Define family vocabulary, including great grandparents, great-aunt and uncle, spouse, step relationships, family tree, etc.
-Tell autobiographical stories. (Why it’s important for kids to tell stories about themselves: Strengthening Family Through Family History: Bruce Feiler’s Tips from RootsTech 2016)
My five year old enjoyed reading this book. He asked a lot of questions about all the unique family trees when he noticed differences from our own. We talked for a long time afterward and the book inspired us to make our own family tree chart.
-If you made a family tree starting with yourself, who would be on it?
-Do you know your grandparents’ names?
-What do you like about your grandparents?
-Would you like to be a great grandparent someday?
-Do you know what cousin means? What about second cousin?
-What is unique about your family?
-What do you like best about your family?
-What are some different kinds of families that the animals in the book talked about?
Make Your Own Family Tree
After reading Who’s Who in My Family Tree, children can make their own family tree diagrams! The diagrams in the book are similar to the “family view” at Ancestry.com. If you have an Ancestry account, it might be a fun project for them to try using the computer to create their own tree and type in the names of their parents, siblings, and cousins. Older kids who have Facebook accounts can import family members from Facebook so their tree will include photos. (Keep in mind that living relatives are kept private, or you can set the tree to be completely private). Here’s what mine looks like:
Another option for older children is to use mind mapping software to create your diagram. Here is one I created using the open source software at MindMup.com:
Since my children are preschool and kindergarten age, we decided to use construction paper and glue to make our family tree diagrams after the style of the trees in the book.
Here is a template for the project that you can download:
To download the word .docx file click here:
Family Tree Diagram Craft
We cut out the parts of the trees from colored paper and wrote the names of family members on the leaves.
In order to include all the kids’ cousins, we would need smaller leaves or a bigger tree (we used 8.5×11” paper). So this time, we stuck to siblings, parents, and grandparents.
We also made one for mom and dad to show more relatives and aunts and uncles.
Lesson Plan Ideas
By making family tree diagrams, presenting them to the class, and talking about themselves and their families, students can practice educational standards from many subjects: social studies, science, and mathematics. Discussing the terms in the glossary and practicing identifying the pronouns used in the book (I, me, he, she, we, herself, you, it) can even be used in a Language Arts lesson. See this Goodreads book review by a 3rd grade teacher who did this here: Review of Who’s Who in My Family Tree.
Each state has different educational standards, but they often contain similar objectives. I will be sharing Arizona state educational standards.
These Arizona PreK Early Learning standards are addressed by the book:
-Views self as a member of the family unit.
-Identifies family members; e.g., mother, father, sister, brother, grandparents, cousins, etc.
-Identifies similarities and differences in their family composition and the families of others.
-Develops an awareness of their personal & family history.
Also, these Social Studies standards may be applicable:
-Retell personal events to show an understanding of how history is the story of events, people, and places in the past. (Grades K-3)
-Use the following to interpret historical data: timelines, graphs, tables, charts, and maps. (Grades 4-6)
Science and Math
I consulted with Emily Schroeder of Growing Little Leaves, who has a background in science, to see how creating family tree diagrams could be applied to the science education standards. She said,
I just looked through in Indiana State standards, which is what I happen to be more familiar with. Our science standards tend to be very specific with certain aspects of science, but overall they use the word “classify” quite a bit, which is essentially what we are doing when making family diagrams.
It looks like I could make a case for including some mathematics standards, too. We have a “Data Analysis” section of our grade standards. For example, here is the one for Kindergarten:
K.DA.1: Identify, sort, and classify objects by size, number, and other attributes. Identify objects that do not belong to a particular group and explain the reasoning used.
I think a standard like this could be applied to creating a family tree diagram. In any case, creating and studying family tree diagrams definitely helps kids (and adults!) develop their spatial recognition and analysis skills, which are very important in all fields of science, from preschoolers all the way up to college-level learning.
Emily shared an interactive and helpful project about diagramming family relationships with popsicle sticks last month, which you can read here. This activity goes perfectly with Who’s Who In My Family Tree, letting children practice family connections like great aunt, step siblings, and adopted children.
The Scientific Process and Genealogy
Though we typically approach genealogy from a historical standpoint, there are many aspects of genealogical research that can be approached scientifically. Using DNA testing to evaluate family relationships is one example. When students reach the older grades, they can follow lesson plans like this one to track inherited traits in their pedigrees, without even taking a DNA test:
“Do you have the same hair color or eye color as your mother? Do people say you look just like your grandfather when he was your age? When we look at members of a family it is easy to see that some physical characteristics or traits are shared, but what are the rules that govern the inheritance of these traits? Some characteristics, like the shape of your hairline or whether your earlobes are attached or detached, are inherited from your parents.”
When children are younger, they can learn about scientific inquiry and family relationships through simple projects that emphasize gathering data from family, recording it, and displaying it on a chart or diagram. Older grades can gather information beyond names and ask about inherited traits (like attached earlobes) or genetic disorders (like Parkinson’s disease).
In Arizona, the Science standards for K-3 grades start with the inquiry process:
“Inquiry Process establishes the basis for students’ learning in science. Students use scientific processes: questioning, planning and conducting investigations, using appropriate tools and techniques to gather data, thinking critically and logically about relationships between evidence and explanations, and communicating results.”
Here are some examples of the performance objectives and how they can be applied to collecting family information:
How do you use family trees to teach children? Did your children like Who’s Who in My Family Tree? Please share in the comments or at our GoodReads book club page!
For more books about family trees, see my post 5 Children’s Books About Family Trees.