Beacon Lesson Plan Library

You Mean I Am Part of History?

Eric Miles


The purpose of this assignment is to open the lines of communication between family members and to gain a historical understanding about family history. Students research and interview their grandparents and parents and create a research paper.


The student selects and uses appropriate pre-writing strategies, such as brainstorming, graphic organizers, and outlines.

The student produces final documents that have been edited for: correct spelling; correct punctuation, including commas, colons, and common use of semicolons; correct capitalization; correct sentence formation; correct instances of possessives, subject/verb agreement, instances of noun/pronoun agreement, and the intentional use of fragments for effect; and correct formatting that appeals to readers, including appropriate use of a variety of graphics, tables, charts, and illustrations in both standard and innovative forms.

The student understands how ideas and beliefs, decisions, and chance events have been used in the process of writing and interpreting history.

The student uses chronology, sequencing, patterns, and periodization to examine interpretations of an event.

The student understands social transformations that took place in the 1920's and 1930's, the principal political and economic factors that led to the Great Depression, and the legacy of the Depression in American society.

The student knows the origins and effects of the involvement of the United States in World War II.

The student understands the political events that shaped the development of United States foreign policy since World War II and knows the characteristics of that policy.

The student understands the development of federal civil rights and voting rights since the 1950's and the social and political implications of these events.

The student knows significant political events and issues that have shaped domestic policy decisions in contemporary America.


-Electronic encyclopedia (Encarta, Grolier, Comptonís, etc.), Genealogy CD
-Library reference books, magazines, periodicals
-Computers, printers, scanners
-Internet access, E-mail


1. Schedule library or computer lab time for research.
2. Students may need instruction in the use of computers and/or reference books.
3. Copy and hand out requirements and due dates.
4. Most students have access to a computer at home, but schedule several dates for those who do not.
5. Post due dates on first day of the project.


Hand out expectation worksheet to students. Introduce the students to the resources available. Tell students to examine political and social events, people, the daily activities of people, advertising in newspapers, religion, etc., from the 1920ís or their grandparentsí childhood. Have students write down key terms or phrases of events, people, etc., that interest them. Have students research the 1930ís, 1940ís, and all the way to the present. The key terms will help stimulate questions to ask their relatives and to create a chronological sequence of events. Students should write at least ten key terms per decade. Have students write ten words to describe themselves or things they treasure in their lives. These terms will help students compare and contrast their lives with their relatives.

Have students create a questionnaire from the key terms collected from each decade. Students can use a single questionnaire for both generations or make two or more questionnaires. When creating the questions, students should focus their questions on one or two grandparents and one or two parents. Limiting the number of people will allow the student to better focus the paper. Students should ask three different types of questions to solicit the best possible answers from their relatives. First, ask questions about everyday living. For example, if a key word from the 1930ís is Great Depression, the student should ask a general question about the food they ate, or the clothes they wore. The second type of question is one that has to do with likes or dislikes of the student. For example, if the student plays baseball, have student ask the relative if he/she ever played baseball or if that person has a baseball hero. The third type of question should be about a controversial topic or event. The goal is not to insult the relative, but rather discover the true feelings or reasons for past actions. An example would include a question about the Vietnam War or the view of Bill Clinton. There is no minimum to the number of questions, but the more extensive the questions, hopefully, the better the responses will be.

Have students telephone, e-mail, visit, or mail questionnaires to their relatives. Ask students to request multiword answers to the questions from their relatives. When the students have gathered the necessary information, have students analyze information looking for details or events that interest them. Tell students to outline the lives of their relatives in chronological order. Have students look for a common ground between generations. Schooling, sports, family, religion are all popular topics. Have students write a rough draft. The more information that can be collected about a family, the more in-depth the research paper will be. Require students to use photocopied photographs to help promote the details and to give the reader a visual picture. Require students to include photocopied or scanned primary and secondary sources, such as a birth certificate, a yearbook, diaries or love letters, voter registration, draft notice, certificate of death, newspaper articles, etc. Collect work on assigned days and enjoy their work!


Studentsí performance will be based on participation and on written presentations. Students will receive a grade for participation and historical accuracy during the research and questioning phases. The students will be graded on their written presentations based on mechanics, meeting the required number of pages, spelling and neatness and meeting the required number of primary and secondary resources.
1. Participation in research: (Observation) 10 points
2. Completed list of terms: 20 points
3. Completion of questions 10 points
4. Completion of outline 10 points
5. Completion of Rough Draft: (Minimum 8 pages) 50 points
6. Completion of Final Copy
A. Mechanics/Number of Pages 30 points
B. Spelling / Neatness 10 points
C. Historical chronologically ordered 10 points
D. Primary/Secondary Sources 30 points
E. Content 20 points
200 points Perfect Score


Some students may not have any surviving grandparents, or they only speak to one parent. Modify assignment so students can write about an aunt or uncle, brother or sister, etc..

Time Requirements:

Research: 2 class periods
Questions and Response: 1 month: completed as homework
Rough Draft: 1 month: completed as homework
Final Copy: 2 weeks: completed as homework

Attached Files

Expectations Worksheet     File Extension: pdf

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