Home is where the heart is! I like to mix in a few lessons that show real families and their lives around the world. Keep reading to see my favorite resources and lessons connected to families.

First I look at my unit goals before I pull in different real resources. In several of my schools, I found that it was easier to get them talking about another family before they would talk about their own. We have already talked about ideas to cover the second row of goals in Cultural games; Playing is learning!, so I will cover some of the others.

Family Stamps

Unit Goals about Family for Level 1, available in Spanish & English in the Mercado


“Material World” Click image to visit Amazon.com.

Martha B. (aka amazing art teacher) showed me the book “Material World” by Peter Menzel. He photographed families in front of their homes with ALL of their belongings also out front. This was an amazing resource of rich photos for discussion and comparison. It is worth finding this book in a library or even purchasing. You can also find his photos online: Peter MenzelPBS.org and NPR. We used these photos to start the discussion to cover the first row of unit goals. (How many people? Where do you think they are from? Who is the mom? How old do you think he is? How many children? Do they have a lot of things? A few things?) Eventually they each picked a country/page to compare to their own life. My students thought this was so interesting to see how others live. Many walked out with a different view of American lifestyle. Pictures are powerful!




I once had a class that told me they didn’t want to talk about their families. Period. It made complete sense. This was at an alternative school, their lives were not ideal, and it brought up too many negative feelings. We decided to talk about someone else’s family. After a vote, one year they picked the movie “Selena” and we talked about her family and all the drama in Spanish. Good, but lacking TL input. Another year we watched “La misma luna.” Even better! This was a major turning point for my planning.





In addition to traditional family games, I add a little about other activities. I love these books by Carmen Lomas Garza for reading stations! The pictures are beautiful and it is bilingual (great for my novice learners). In the past these books inspired my students to want to learn more about quinceañeras and we actually created a party for the class (all girls’ school)… with decorations, invitations, food, games, cards… all in Spanish! Megan once did it as a surprise birthday party for a student. I’m pretty sure there was even a Mariachi-styled “Las Mañanitas” played on the guitar by a student.




Photo by Fran Rábano


Then I show pictures of homes from around the world and let them match up to their descriptions. (This was actually a lesson I sent in for National Boards.) This was eye opening for them! They made some great connections to explain how homes reflect the environment, weather, nature, economic status, culture and way of life. I also tried to show a variety of homes (different social economic classes to break some stereotypes and famous homes). Read Megan’s post “Include culture in every lesson” to see more details of this lesson.




Once I brought in my azulejo tile that said “Welcome. My house is your house.” They were very curious about “azulejos.” That evolved into a mini-side-unit. They researched about their history, colors, patterns and uses. One students found a pictures of a Camino de Santiago Concha azulejo which started a whole new conversation. Then the amazing art teacher helped us make our own from clay. It was a memorable experience that was perfect to release some stress during testing season!


For my classes that were passionate about making a change in the world, we watched this video with the song “Casa de Cartón” by Javier Alvarez. This led to some great conversations about poverty. Next time I want to extend this to some type of volunteer project. Any ideas??

I hope this has given you a few ideas on how to make the family unit focused on culture first, so they can then compare to their own. It has transformed my class! Megan has one last post about this topic before we move on to a new one. Did anyone hear mariachi music??



 Photo Credits

Featured Image: “Material World,” Cuba, Peter Menzel