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Fun Classroom Ideas to Celebrate Family History Month

Janelle Cox

October is Family History Month. This is a great time to enrich students’ understanding of their background and engage them as they learn more about their ancestry.

Learning about family history gives students a greater appreciation of their current family and their past. Take some time out this month and give students the opportunity to remember their roots and celebrate their unique family history.

Here are a few fun classroom ideas to help you celebrate Family History Month.

“The Keeping Quilt”

“The Keeping Quilt” book by Patricia Polacco is a multigenerational story that follows a quilt as it gets past down from generation to generation. This beloved tale tells a story of a family’s love and endurance throughout the years.

This book is a great stepping stone to introduce a unit on ancestry. After reading the story, ask students, “What are some things that have been handed down in your family?” If they don’t know, assign this question as a research project, and have students find out what the oldest thing is in their family that has been handed down. Then have them tell that story to their class. For an extension classroom idea, have students create their own class quilt. Students can create a self-portrait and transfer it onto fabric, then sew it together.

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Prepare a Family Dish

Every family has a particular recipe that has been handed down from generation to generation. Invite students to dive into their family cookbook and find a dish to prepare for the class. If their family doesn’t have a signature dish, they can start a new tradition in their family by preparing one of their favorite recipes for the class.

If this seems like a lot to ask of your students and parents, then you can have each child submit their family’s recipe and have a class vote on which one the class will prepare.

Research the Family Tree

Increase social studies skills by having students research their family tree. Have them enlist the help of their family to complete a family tree worksheet. To get students excited about learning about their ancestors, read the book “Me and My Family Tree” by Joan Sweeney, or “Who’s Who in My Family?” by Loreen Leedy.

Create a Family Newspaper

A creative way to practice writing and research family history is to have students create a family newspaper. Introduce students to a basic newspaper and allow them to choose five sections to include into their newspaper. Popular sections to include are:

  • Feature story.
  • Family recipe.
  • Family story (if grandpa is a war veteran, etc.).
  • Interview with a family member
  • Comic strip of a funny family story

The title of the newspaper can be something like “Family Ties,” or related to their family name like “The Cox Crusader.” Encourage students to add family photos and to be creative.

The Heritage Project

A fun at-home project for students is to create a visual display of their family history. Here a few guidelines students should follow while completing their project:

  • Create an attractive display of your family history (a tri-fold poster board works best).
  • Suggested things to include: Family tree, old family photos, family crest or flag representing where you came from, family artifacts, old birth certificates or marriage certificates, interesting documents, family recipe, etc.
  • After creating your display be prepared to present your project to the class.

Family Tree PowerPoint Presentation

A family tree PowerPoint presentation is a great way for students to connect social studies and technology. They get to study their genealogy and learn about their relatives in a fun and organized manner. To get started, send home a note to parents asking them to please send in pictures of grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, and pets, etc. Students then scan those pictures on the computer and create a presentation about their family.  

Create a Time Capsule

Have students choose an ancestor and create a time capsule of his life. Students can create a snapshot of his life by recreating artifacts or special moments in his life. For example, students can create a newspaper article, birth certificate, draw a picture of what they used to dress like, or include a favorite recipe. They can recreate a wedding invitation or a birth announcement. Once students have gathered or created their artifacts they can create a unique time capsule (by decorating a shoebox) to put them into.

By learning about their ancestors, students will be able to better understand their place in the world. Make this learning experience fun and exciting by inviting a relative in to speak, or by showing old home movies. This experience is one that students will take with them forever.

How do you celebrate Family History Month in your classroom? Do you have any creative activities that you do with students? Please share with us in the comment section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.