Students interview relatives about their heritage, make a family tree, and map their ancestors' migration in this lesson unit on America's cultural diversity.
- Gain geographical and cultural knowledge of a country of the world
- Skim reference books and Internet articles to find important information about their country
- Understand that cultural differences exist between the country they study and America
- Gain real life experience as they plan their trip using actual airline and hotel information
- Heritage and Country Research Organizer printable
- A Trip to the Homeland: My Travel Log printable
- A Trip to the Homeland: Passport to My Heritage printable
- Paper cutter
- Computer and color printer
- Resource books about countries of the world
- One small photo of each student for passport
- 8.5- x 11-inch white paper
- Long neck stapler
- Printer paper in various colors
- Lined paper
- Optional: Lamination machine
- Before you begin Part One, prepare a note to send home with students explaining that the class will be taking part in a country study. Request that students select a country from their heritage that they would like to study, write it down, and have parents sign and return the form. Experience taught me to do this after one boy completed a beautiful project on Italy and his mother later told me their family was not the slightest bit Italian!
- Make class sets of the Heritage and Country Research Organizer and A Trip to the Homeland: My Travel Log printables.
- Make a class set of the A Trip to the Homeland: Passport to My Heritage printable. Use a paper cutter to trim the edges around each passport.
- Using a digital publishing program, find a graphic of a passport cover. Size it to approximately the same width and height as the A Trip to the Homeland: Passport to My Heritage. Print enough color copies for each member of your class.
- Visit your school or public library and gather a large collection of expository material that your class can use to research countries of the world.
- Preview Internet sites you may want your students to use for research. Preview the Heritage and Country Research Organizer to ensure that the sites will provide the most comprehensive information. You may also want to find a site that will calculate time zone differences around the world and sites that will translate English to other languages. Bookmark a limited number of appropriate sites you want the class to use when doing research.
- Preview your favorite Internet travel sites. You will be helping the students find airfare to and a hotel in the capital city of the country they visit. You may use direct links to airlines or hotel chains, but I find multi-service Internet companies provide one stop shopping.
- Procure one small ID-style photo for each student in your class. I use the extras that are sent with school photos. If you do not have these available, take a small headshot photo of each student to use.
- Prepare the booklets students will use to publish their A Trip to the Homeland: My Travel Log. You will need two pieces of double-sided landscape-oriented lined writing paper for each student. Put one sheet on top of a second and fold down the middle, book style. Use a long neck stapler to put one staple in the middle to hold the pages in place while the students publish. Students will create a cover and staple that on later in the lesson.
Note: If you don't have double-sided landscape-oriented lined paper, you can easily create your own. Selected the landscape view on a word processing application and line the page by simply holding down the underline key until the page is full. Copy this paper back to back so it is double sided.
This lesson is a continuation of Lesson One: Discovering Your Heritage. If you are not planning to do Lesson One, simply adjust the directions accordingly.
Part One: Researching the Country
Duration: 4 days
Step 1: Tell students they will have the opportunity to learn more about one country that plays a role in their family background. Discuss what criteria they should think of when choosing a country. Questions to bring up include:
- Is this a country that influences some of their family traditions?
- Will they be able to find up-to-date resources on this country?
- Is this a country currently in existence?
- Are any other people studying this country in the class? Weigh the pros and cons of choosing a "popular" country. The advantage would be having a partner or small group to work with, but the disadvantage is scarcer resources when they are spread out among many.
- Can they plan an imaginary trip to this country from the United States or do travel restrictions exist?
Step 2: Allow students to spend some time looking through resources on countries in order to help them narrow in on their research topic. This may be done in your classroom or your school's media center or library. At this point, you may want to send home a note with students asking for parental approval of the country their child plans to study.
Step 3: When all students have picked a country, distribute copies of the Heritage and Country Research Organizer printable to each student. Review your expectations. For each section, discuss and help students decide the best resource to use to answer the questions. Model for students how they can skim books, articles, and other reference information to look for important facts.
Step 4: Provide two to three class periods for your students to research and fill out their organizers. At least one of those class periods should be spent using the computer for research. Have students visit the sites you have bookmarked. Monitor students' work to ensure they stay focused and on track with their research.
Step 5: While students are researching, work with small groups of 2–4 students to help them find flight and hotel information for the capital or largest city in the country they are studying. Use a travel site you're familiar with for this. Type in the name of the capital city when asked for "destination." Follow the links to find flight information on a flight from your nearest major airport to the foreign capital. Non-stop flights work best for this. For those unfamiliar with booking travel online, you will only be viewing a schedule and you will not need to purchase anything. Print the flight itinerary using the "current page" command so you do not receive several pages of airline information.
Step 6: After you have found flight information, search for hotels in that same city. Explain to students what the stars mean and how many people pick their hotels based on amenities and star rankings. After each student has chosen a hotel, print this information.
Note: For younger grades, it would be appropriate for the teacher to "man" computer while students provide you with pertinent information. In the upper elementary grades, you will probably only need to supervise while students follow your directions to find the information they need.
Part Two: Travel Log
Duration: 3 days
Step 1: After students have completed their research and the Heritage and Country Research Organizer, tell students that they have worked so hard that they deserve a vacation! Distribute the A Trip to the Homeland: My Travel Log printable to each student. Explain how students will take the information they've learned through their research to write about an imaginary trip to their country.
Step 2: Work as a whole group to complete the first page of the A Trip to the Homeland: My Travel Log, modeling how students will need to go to their completed Heritage and Country Research Organizer to find the information they need for the blanks. Allow students approximately two class periods to complete the fill-in-the-blank travel log.
Step 3: Once students have finished their A Trip to the Homeland: My Travel Log printables, they are ready to publish them. Give each student a blank lined booklet you have prepared. See Set Up and Prepare above. Students should neatly transcribe what is in the fill-in-the-blank travel log to their own booklet. I always tell students to personalize the book by changing the wording, adding pictures to border the sides, etc.
Step 4: Ask students to create covers for their travel logs and staple them on top of the booklet using the long neck stapler.
Note: I have students use the "greeting card" function on our school's publishing program to quickly create a half-page-size document for their cover. My only requirements for the cover are that it includes the student's name, the name of the country they visited, and a picture related to the country.
Step 5: Allow students to share their finished travel logs with the class when they're finished.
Part Three: Creating a Passport to Learning
Duration: 1 day
Step 1: Explain to students that when you travel to most foreign countries, passports are required. Provide details on their purpose, who looks at them, and when. If you have a passport, share it with the class.
Step 2: Distribute A Trip to the Homeland: Passport to My Heritage printable to students. Direct students to fill out the passport form in their neatest handwriting.
Step 3: Give students the small ID-style photos you prepared. Have students use a glue stick to adhere their picture in the designated square.
Step 4: Hand out the prepared passport covers and have students glue the interior page to the cover so that it looks more like a real passport.
Optional: I laminate the passports so that they don't come apart.
Step 5: Use students' answers to the questions on the passport ("The person in my family who originally came from this country was:"; "I chose this country to research because"; "The most important thing I have learned about my heritage is:"; and "I'm proud to be an American because:") to help you gauge students' feelings about the project and what they may have learned from a cultural standpoint.
Supporting All Learners
The process of completing the travel log and then publishing it may be quite challenging for some students in your class. I have adapted the travel log in the past by using the word processor to cut and paste it into two columns. Then I fold it in half and staple it into book form. After students fill in the blanks, have them staple the cover on top.
The best extension of this country study lesson is to expand upon it by combining it with the elements of Lesson One and showcasing all the work from Lesson Three. Whether you decide to teach the lessons as a unit or not, these activities will extend learning and fit well with the A Trip to the Homeland lesson.
Have your students write a postcard home from their country. They can write a short letter describing the day's activities and draw a picture of a famous landmark on the front. Finally, students can draw on the stamp that has the postage price in their country's currency.
Pack Your Bags
Have students bring in a small shoebox. Cover the lid and bottom in brown paper, and then decorate it to look like an old-fashioned steamer trunk. Inside, students can put artifacts related to the culture of their country. During a show and tell style period, students can share the contents of their trunk with the class, explaining the significance of each item.
If your school population is diverse, you have a valuable resource at your fingertips. Have parents from different countries come in to help students research. They may be able to give firsthand accounts of the culture in a country or provide language translations for students. Parents can also be very helpful when you are using the Internet or creating the travel log covers. I always feel it is important to have as many mature eyes and ears as possible when students are using the Internet so the students stay focused.
- Take notes in a research organizer while researching a country
- Use research notes to fill in the blanks of their travel log
- Accurately fill in the blanks of their travel log
- Publish their travel log in their handwriting
- Create a cover for their travel log
- Complete the reflections inside the passport
- Glue the passport cover to the inside sheet
- Did your students have enough information about their country to fill out the research organizer adequately?
- Did the students have enough time to research their country?
- Were students able to publish their own travel log in a timely manner? Would parent volunteers be helpful for publishing the covers?
- Did students answer all the questions in the passport thoroughly and thoughtfully?
- What would you do differently next time to improve this lesson?
- Were students using the research time effectively?
- Did students working on the same countries work well together?
- Were students able to make the passports independently?
- Did students understand the geographical terms used in the research organizer?
- Were students able to transfer information from the notes they took to the travel log?
- Did students understand what information was needed where?
- Did students edit and change sentences appropriately when needed?
- Did students write sentences with details in their passports?