Family and Lesson Plan and ESL Teaching

Teaching language learners the words for talking about their families is often one the first vocabulary lessons offered in the language classroom. Informing students about the terms for family members is especially important if the organization of the family is vastly different in the first language than in English. The goal of this ESL lesson plan is to teach English language learners about the family as organized by English speakers. Students will learn family vocabulary as well as do an ESL family tree activity that allows them to think and talk about their own families.

Family ESL Vocabulary

Begin the ESL lesson plan on family by introducing and defining the following vocabulary. Remember that, depending on the native culture of the English language learner, these categories may be identical, similar, or different in the students' first languages.

Singular – Plural: Definition

  • aunt – aunts: your father's or mother's sister
  • brother – brothers: your male sibling
  • brother-in-law – brothers-in-law: your spouse's brother
  • child – children: your offspring
  • cousin – cousins: your aunt's and uncle's child
  • dad – dads: your male parent (informal)
  • daughter – daughters: your female child
  • daughter-in-law – daughters-in-law: your child's wife
  • father – fathers: your male parent

    father-in-law – fathers-in-law: your spouse's father

  • grandchild – grandchildren: your child's child
  • granddaughter – granddaughters: your child's female child
  • grandfather – grandfathers: your father's or mother's father
  • grandma – grandmas: your father's or mother's mother (informal)
  • grandmother – grandmothers: your father's or mother's mother
  • grandpa – grandpas: your father's or mother's father (informal)
  • grandson – grandsons: your child's male child
  • half-brother – half-brothers: your male sibling who shares only one biological parent
  • half-sister – half-sisters: your female sibling who shares only one biological parent

    husband – husbands: your male spouse

  • mom – moms: your female parent (informal)
  • mother – mothers: your female parent
  • mother-in-law – mothers-in-law: your spouse's mother
  • nephew – nephews: your bother's or sister's son
  • niece – nieces: your brother's or sister's daughter
  • parent – parents: your mother or father
  • sibling – siblings: your brother or sister
  • sister – sisters: your female sibling
  • sister-in-law – sisters-in-law: your spouse's sister
  • spouse – spouses: your husband or wife
  • stepbrother – stepbrothers: your non-biological male sibling through marriage
  • stepfather – stepfathers: your non-biological male parent through marriage
  • stepmother – stepmothers: your non-biological female parent through marriage
  • stepsister – stepsisters: your non-biological female sibling through marriage
  • son – sons: your male child
  • son-in-law – sons-in-law: your child's husband
  • uncle – uncles: your father's or mother's brother
  • wife – wives: your female spouse

Family Tree ESL Activity

ESL Family Tree

After the English language students are comfortable with the family vocabulary, use the following activity to reinforce the lesson. Begin by having the students fill out their family trees with as many family members as possible. (A sample family tree is available for download.) Then have the ESL students practice their writing skills by writing sentences about their family tree; for example: "Mary Kay is my mother. Nordine is Mary Kay's mother." Writing these types of sentences also gives English language learners practice with possessive determiners and possessive nouns. After the writing section of this activity, have the students practice their English speaking skills by asking each other questions about their families and family trees; for example: "Who is Rachel? Rachel is my mother-in-law. OR My mother-in-law."

By the end of this ESL lesson plan, English language learners should be able to talk about their families and the relationships between family members. Learning how English speakers organize the family is especially important for ESL students whose native cultures have organization systems that are different from that of English speakers.