Learning About Our Heritage

I teach at a magnet school.  (if you are unsure about what a magnet is, here is some background) Because of this, my classroom (as is the entire school) is filled with a great deal of diversity.  Many of my students are the sons or daughters of immigrants to the United States.  Some are immigrants themselves.  So when we came upon our unit discussing Heritage, they each had quite a bit to bring to the table. 

During this unit, we did many different projects to get the students thinking about where they came from and their own family roots.   I thought I would take this post to share some of those projects with you.

To begin, we talked about what an immigrant was in general.  The students wrote paragraphs about them after we read several articles on the subject.  Now, this was before Common Core so now I can see that we totally could have tied in the close reading idea and pulled in actual evidence from the articles, instead of the basic retelling of the ideas in their own words that the kids did.  But, eh, these were good for the time :) 

Another little project we did to introduce this unit were our heritage dolls.  The students researched the country they felt most connected to as "where they were from." (some of the students had one parent from, say, Guatemala and another from Mexico.  I asked them to pick just one of those countries for the purposes of this project.)  They researched the traditional dress of the people who lived there and created little dolls representing the dress. I also took a picture of the kids as if they were holding the doll.  The speech bubbles described the dress that they learned from their research. 

To learn a little more about the other students in class, the kids conducted surveys about where people came from.  They each made up their own questions dealing with a person's background.  The questions could have been about preferred language, country of origin, favorite foods, or whatever they thought would have to do with the background of the people in our class.  They then disaggregated the data, finding percentages, fractions, etc...of the data.  Finally, the students used Create-A-Graph and made both a bar graph and circle graph of the information.  (for more info on how I use this in my classroom, see this post)

There was a major at home project that they students did involving their family over the course of this unit as well.  First, they choose one family member who actually immigrated to the United States and interviewed him/her.  Every one of my students had a direct relative that they could interview, however if no one was available, I did allow them to speak to a neighbor or teacher or friend who was an immigrant for the purposes of this project.  Next, they chose a country they felt most connected to a "where they were from" (could be the same as the one with the doll or the other country.)  They then wrote a research report following all of the conventions of a traditional research report.  Finally, the students created a "float" representing that country that was researched.  We then had a "float parade" where the entire school came out as we paraded down the hallway with the floats!  The kids had a blast with that one!!  You can get the entire project here.

Those are just a few of the many projects and lesson we did during this unit.  Have you ever done a unit on the students' heritage?  What are some things you have done?


  1. What an amazing project! This is such a great way to have students learn to research, too. I'm sure your students loved creating the floats. They look fantastic :)

  2. I wish I could but we don't cover this in our curriculum! I love everything you did for this, however, and would do the same in a heartbeat if I ever had the chance. I can imagine how much the kids must love this :)

    We are starting your Native American Tribes project and the kids are SO excited. It was a huge hit last year and I know it will be again. Thanks Steph!!

  3. Thanks ladies! It really was a fun unit. Luckily, both my language arts and ELD unit were in the heritage theme, so I was able to really run with it.

  4. Awesome project! Somehow I never saw this post until now! I LOVE having kids research their heritage. We do a project similar to this during December before Christmas. We are usually just starting our Exploration unit and it is a nice place to take a quick break and focus on all the countries/continents represented in our classroom. You can see what we do in this post: http://theartoflearning-bermingham.blogspot.com/2014/01/a-holiday-project-american-family.html

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