First Grade: What Makes a Family a Family?

by Stephanie Rotsky

What makes a family a family? This was the essential question that launched our Grade 1 Family Unit. While we agreed that we are all part of a family, we also agreed that families can be similar and different, and that’s a wonderful thing! As we started recording their ideas, students realized that there are so many ways to describe what makes a family a family.

Students did a post-it note survey around the room with questions about their own families. Although many of the students have known each other since Kindergarten, this survey was a way for students to think in deeper ways about their own families and to discover new things about other Grade 1 families.

We read Families, Families, Families by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang. The book presented many different families — represented by animals and some funny text — and what different families “look” like (i.e., who might be in a family?). As we read the book, students shared comments like “that’s like my family,” or “a family can include cousins living with them?”

Each book we read together offered the opportunity to expand our thinking about what makes a family a family!

How many of you know the “story/reason” connected to your name? This opening question set the stage for our second story, My Name is Aviva by Lesléa Newman. It gave the students a chance to think about their English and/or Hebrew names and why they were given those names when they were born.

Some students already knew the story connected to their names and others didn’t. We spoke about how, in Jewish tradition, a baby is often named for someone who has died who was beloved. In naming a baby after a special person in your family, it is a beautiful way to carry on the memories and life of that person! We also talked about how sometimes a baby is given the same name or the initials of that person, or the name has a direct connection to that person. If you haven’t already, consider sharing with your child the “story” behind his/her name!

Other age-appropriate books about families include:

  • Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism by Laurie Lears
  • Donovon’s Big Day by Lesléa Newman
  • I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis
  • Living with Mom and Living with Dad by Melanie Walsh
  • Always and Forever by Debi Gliori and Alan Durant
  • Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup by Pamela Mayer

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