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The following lesson engages young children in exploring the concept of family with emphasis on how families around the world share more commonalities than differences.


Students will:

  • demonstrate beginning understanding of family structures and roles.
  • respond to literature related to the concept of family.
  • identify shared characteristics of a family and the unique features of their own families.
  • locate the country of India, comparing and contrasting its physical and cultural features to those of the United States.


  • chore: tasks often done on a regular basis and often for one's family
  • household: a group of people living together under the same roof
  • parent: a caretaker of one or more children
  • role: a voluntary or assigned act or responsibility
  • sibling: someone who shares one or more parents with another
  • adult: someone of mature age
  • families: persons who are connected by biology or love
  • child: a son or daughter or someone who is aged between birth and adolescence 



Note to teacher: Prior to teaching this lesson, please write a letter to students' families requesting that children bring to class a photo or illustration of their family members. This lesson may be best taught in separate instructional periods based on children's ages and attention spans.

  1. Read aloud the letter from Malika, a young girl who lives in the state of Maharashtra in the country of India. Explain that she is a child who lives in another country in a part of the world that is far away.
  2. Locate India on a map, globe, or digital resource. Ask children to make observations about the geographic characteristics, both physical and cultural, of the country and/or state where Malika lives.
  3. Note that just like the United States of America, India is divided into states. Locate the state Maharashtra in which Malika lives in a small village. Explain that students will be learning more about Malika and children just like her, including those who belong in their families, the role each plays, and what families enjoy doing together and for one another. They will also learn more about their own families.
  4. Explain that we will first explore the concept family. Give each child a copy of the family circle map which is a circle map with the word "family" in the center and guiding questions at the bottom.
  5. Ask children to brainstorm what comes to mind when they hear the word "family" by drawing or writing descriptive words around the concept.
    Note to teacher: younger learners may simply draw their brainstorming ideas and skip the questions at the bottom of the activity sheet.
  6. Compare and contrast students' ideas. Emphasize that the concept of family can have slightly different meanings to different people; however common features of a family are universal around the world, such as:
    • Those who are related to one another biologically or by marriage
    • Spouses, or adults who often are married, who live together with or without children.
    • Those whose behaviors contribute to the health and well-being of the family unit or household.

7. Give each child a copy of family roles template and have them list or illustrate the roles they each play in their families.

8. Review some of their answers emphasizing that we each play a vital role and are important members or our family.

9. Afterwards, ask students to share their family photo or illustration with classmates at their tables. Allow a short small-group discussion on family features or characteristics, members, and roles.

Note to teacher: This can be adapted for very young learners by having them "show and tell" their family photo or illustration with discussion on their role in the family.

  1. Explain that the class will create a family album for Malika that describes our families. Give each student a copy of the family album template upon which to glue his or her family photo or illustration and a space upon which to describe what he or she believes makes a family.
  2. Compile students' family photos or illustrations and descriptions. Create a bound class family album or a digital story narrated by the students answering the question, "What Makes a Family?" 

Frameworks and standards

Enduring understandings

  • Families are a vital part of society and can be found in every part of the world; they play an important role in shaping who we are as individuals and communities.
  • Families around the world are more similar than different. They provide love, support, nurturing, and guidance.
  • The environment affects how people live; however, all people are connected to each other through shared resources and common human experiences.

Essential questions

  • How are families similar or different? (e.g. roles of family members, composition of families, etc)
  • How do families interact?
  • What does it mean to be a family?


  • National Association for the Education of Young Children
    • 2.L.03 Cognitive Development: Social Studies- understanding of diversity
    • 2.L.04 Cognitive Development: Social Studies- social roles in the family
  • National Social Studies Standards
    • Thematic Strand IV: Individual Development & Identity
  • National Geography Standards
    • Essential Element 1: The World in Spatial Terms
    • Essential Element 2: Places and Regions
  • Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy
    • Reading: Informational Text
      • Key Ideas and Details: describe connections; group reading
    • Writing
      • Text Types and Purposes: write informative/explanatory texts and narratives
      • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: recall information from experiences
    • Speaking and Listening
      • Presentation of Knowledge and ideas: describe familiar people; express thoughts and feelings clearly
    • Language
      • Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: real-life connections between words and their uses; use words and phrases acquired through reading and being read to  


  • Invite a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer through Coverdell World Wise Schools' Global Connections program to speak to your class. S/he can discuss experiences learning about families in his or her host country and what it was like to have a host family.
  • Engage students in writing similes about the concept of family (i.e., Family is like…)