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Teaching Spanish: Family Tree Project

written by: Jessica Cook • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 1/20/2012

Help your students learn about family vocabulary with this fun and creative project. It can also be a good way for you to learn more about your students' lives outside of the classroom. Using simple sentences and visual aids, your Spanish students will construct a family tree on poster board.

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    Getting Started

    Have your students complete a family tree project as the formative assessment in your study of family vocabulary terms. In order to complete this project, students will need to know the vocabulary for family members and relationships as well as the grammar required to say things about their own families. You can add in other vocabulary as well, in asking your students to describe their family members.

    To set up this project, your students will need a piece of poster board and photos of their family members (I always made them display at least 10 family members). If a student did not have photos of all of the members of his family, I would let him draw their pictures instead.

    For variations on this project, I have also allowed:

    • Students can use a PPT presentation to lay out their project instead of poster board.
    • Students can use construction paper and bind their project into a small book instead of using poster board.
    • Students can invent a family instead of describing their actual family members. This makes the project a little less sensitive, in case you have students who may not feel comfortable discussing their home lives in class. You can let students choose famous people to be part of their family tree, or they can even invent a family where they are the head of household and they describe their own future children and grandchildren. (The girls love to do this, and put a photo of their boyfriend in the "esposo" slot.)
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    Put it Together

    Once your students have drawn out their family trees on their poster boards and added photos of their families, they must label the photos using Spanish sentences. You may choose to include any or all of the following information in your project requirements:

    • Give everyone in your family two last names, following the "rules" for last names in Spanish (father's last name followed by mother's maiden name; married women add "de ______" when they take on their husband's names). If they do not know the maiden names of all the members of their families, I tell them to make it up. After all, I'm grading the arrangement of the names, not the truthfulness of them.
    • Write sentences about how you are related to the people on the tree. For example, "Yo tengo un hermano; se llama Joel Soto Santiago." Or you might have them use possessive pronouns and write sentences like, "Mi hermana se llama Veronica Martinez Garcia."
    • Write sentences describing the appearance and personalities of all of your family members.
    • Write sentences about the ages of all of your family members.
    • Describe the occupations of your family members (young children could just be "estudiantes").

    The project can be a little bit repetitive, so you can always switch things up by asking students to choose two or three sentence types from a list for each family member.

    As a tip, I always make my students complete their projects entirely during class time. I have had students plagiarize this project in the past, so I learned from that experience to make them work on it only during class; that way, I can monitor the resources they use.

    When you assess this project, grade students on the neatness and creativity of the family tree, as well as the grammatical accuracy of their sentences.