LearningTip#42: My Family Traditions Scrapbook:
Created to Preserve Individual Keepsakes

By Judy Cozzens, M.A. in Education
Director of the Westridge Young Writers Workshop
Jefferson County, Colorado

Each American family has played an important role in the building of our country.  All people have a history that is uniquely their own.  Kids' innate curiosity about the past, especially about their own history, really lends itself to the making of a family scrapbook.  This activity can provide a tremendous boost to one's self-esteem.  Sharing class members' work with the whole group provides an excellent lesson in multicultural education by showing how all people are different yet alike.  Putting together a personal scrapbook can motivate children to discover their individuality and encourage them to learn about their roots.  When people are able to understand and appreciate their own heritage, we believe they will become more sensitive to the heritage of others. 

We understand that every child does not come from a traditional family structure.  Still, with the help of families, most children will be able to make a book on their family.  But, if a child appears to be uncomfortable or lacks knowledge (about his/her family) or family support, you might want to help him/her select another person's family to study.   One alternative would be researching and writing about a famous person through a biographical/autobiographical book or movie.  Another suggestion would be to research an individual whom they know and admire such as an older person in their neighborhood, friend of the family, teacher, or librarian.  Students may also base their scrapbook on a fictional character that they have created or read about.


My Family Scrapbook Resources Learning and Growth

My Family Scrapbook

KidBibs' LearningTips
Virtual Bookstore!

For the convenience of our readers, KidBibs offers the following related resources through Amazon.com:

Do People Grow on Family Trees? Geneology for Kids and Other Beginners by Ira Wolfman

Kids America by Steven Caney

Read Across America by Gloria Rothstein.

Books by the Westridge Young Writers Workshop:

Kids Explore America's Hispanic Heritage

Kids Explore America's Japanese American Heritage

Kids Explore America's Heritage of Western Native Americans

Kids Explore America's African American Heritage

Kids Explore America's Jewish Heritage

Kids Explore the Gifts of Children with Special Needs

Kids Explore Kids Who Make a Difference

The actual pages for the family tradition scrapbook can be those that you design to your specifications, professionally designed masters, or even pages designed by the students to personalize their own scrapbook.  Students will choose what they want included in their family tradition scrapbook and then spend different days working on the contents.  Possible pages include:

My Story--This part might include name, date and where born, parents' and siblings' names, where one lives, school name, teacher's name, hobbies, pets, favorite things, best and worst moments, friends, most prized possessions, etc.

My Name--This section could give the origin, meaning, and reasons a person has his/her name.

Groups to Which I Belong/Future Roles I Might Have--This part might explore roles such as son/daughter, brother/sister, nephew/niece, grandson/granddaughter, friend, teammate, husband/wife, father/mother, etc.  Students will choose two roles and write short paragraphs about each.

Family Tree--This chapter might include grandparents' and parents' names (including maiden name of mother and grandmothers), when and where born, marriage to whom, when, and where, names of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. and finally deaths in families.

Map (Country/Countries of Origin)--This part could show the world with specific countries highlighted or just have a map of the countries included.  Arrows showing routes of emigration might also be included, if information is available.

Family Story--This story could be historical and/or current, allowing the student to include facts s/he has learned through interviews for this activity.

Family Member Interview--This interview would be about a significant person in the student's life and include things like name, when and where born, parents' and siblings' names, places lived, job, and religion.  It could have favorites such as relative, holidays. food, weekend fun, vacations, schools, teachers, friends, books, movies, sayings, and pets.  It might talk about when the individual was proud, grown up, sad, embarrassed, scared, mad, etc.   Students will present their interview in a way that compares their own life to the life of the person they interviewed.

My Own Favorite or a Traditional Family Recipe--With this recipe, the student might include things like when it is served and a bit about the history of the recipe within his/her family.

Family's Crest/Symbol/Insignia is a design that represents your family.  The student could check to see if there is already one in existence or create one by using the last name meanings, country of origin, family traditions, and personal interests.

Photos/snapshots of important people in the student's life make a nice addition.  (Most copy stores do excellent color copies of a complete page for $2.00.)

Literature of the People of the U.S.  Students choose books about two cultures within the U.S. for independent reading.  Students do a book report in the Venn Diagram form to compare the two cultures.

Personal Activity Page--Students may choose to write about any other family celebration, funny story or creative endeavor they want included if approved by the teacher. 

The teacher may want to have a family night orientation possibly on Back-to-School Night.  This would encourage participation and each student's job would be easier with families to assist with research.  A culminating family celebration to thank all participants is another nice touch.  It could include scrapbook presentations with a potluck dinner of the recipes presented in the scrapbooks.  Some classes have put together and published a cookbook of all the recipes to sell as a school fundraiser. 



There are many resources available to teach children about heritage and cultures.  Children's books can be used in a number of ways to support student learning.  The following books (which are linked to Amazon.com for your viewing convenience) could support the Family Traditions Scrapbook project:

Do People Grow on Family Trees? Geneology for Kids and Other Beginners by Ira Wolfman

Kids' America by Steven Caney

Read Across America by Gloria Rothstein.

This project has the potential to broaden students' multicultural understanding when supplemented with books about other cultures.   The books researched and written by fourth through seventh graders in our Westridge Young Writer's Workshop can help.  These books include:

Kids Explore America's Hispanic Heritage

Kids Explore America's African-American Heritage

Kids Explore America's Japanese American Heritage

Kids Explore America's Jewish Heritage

Kids Explore the Heritage of Western Native Americans

Finally, other lessons and activities can supplement children's understanding of heritage and culture.  The following lessons which have been developed by Jefferson County (Colorado) teachers relate specifically to this project:

Personal Timeline

My Family's Trunk

My Name

Click here for other multicultural lesson plans written by teachers of the Jefferson County (Colorado) School District.


Learning and Growth

For children, this activity appears to be a fun project.  But, the learning achieved through the development of this Family Traditions Scrapbook is significant.  Through this activity, students use processes and resources of historical inquiry to research their family.  They read and respond to literature from a variety of cultures.  They also write effectively for a variety of purposes and audiences.  In addition, they engage in authentic writing to create products which incorporate expression, description, narration, persuasion, and exposition.  Further, their scrapbook reflects an understanding of the chronology of people and events in the history of their family.  Finally, they compare information about the past to present-day situations and problems.  And if that's not enough, the knowledge and pride that results from the making of the scrapbook is phenomenal.  Enjoy!


About the Author

Judy Cozzens, the founder and director of the Westridge Young Writers Workshop (featured in LearningTip #41), has helped children publish over a dozen books.  She has been recognized for her outstanding teaching with many awards such as the Colorado Award for Excellence in Education, Phi Delta Kappa Research Award, and the Anti-Defamation League Teacher Who Makes a Difference Award Judy's work with her young writers has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, on the national news, and in many publications such as Teaching Tolerance and Instructor Magazine.  In Judy's twenty-five year teaching career, she has taught students in every grade except second.  She has been a guest professor for several universities and presented at national conventions.   Judy has degrees from the University of Great Falls in Montana and the University of Colorado in Boulder.

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