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Where Did We Come From? Tracing Your Lineage


Social Studies  


4, 5, 6, 7, 8  

Lesson Title: Where did we come from? Tracing Your Lineage

By: Holly N. Hart
Grade Levels: Elementary to middle school
Length: One week outside of class to complete


Students will be able to:

  • Recognize how the immigration process has shaped the United States
  • Obtain information about their lineage by interviewing one or more family members
  • Articulate their interview findings in discussion and in writing


List of interview questions for subjects

Lesson Development

Introduction: The students will be presented with the concept of immigration with a brief discussion of the history of American families. Begin discussion with the statement that although we are all Americans, non-Native American families did not originate in the United States.

  1.  In class, discuss the five Ws of journalism: who, what, when, where, and why.
  2. Give students the task of finding out where they came from by interviewing one or more family members.
  3. Use the five Ws to help students create a list of questions for interview subjects that will provide information on their lineage and family history. Examples of questions that could be included in the list include:
    • What are the origins of the family’s last name?
    • Where is the country you were born in, or what is the cultural heritage in your family?
    • When did you, your parents, or your ancestors begin living in America?
    • Who was the first person in your family to come to America? 
    • Why did you or your family move to America? 
    • What special customs and traditions do you or your family still observe?
  4. After the students complete their interviews, they will write a summary of each subject that answers the 5 Ws.


The assessment of the student’s performance will be based on the completion of interview, the student’s written summary, and their input in the discussion of their findings.


  • If it is not possible for a student to get information from their families, have community volunteers or other parents available for interviews.
  • If there are visiting foreign students in the classroom, adjust the interview questions to answer questions about their native country.


Students share their findings with the class or in small groups. They may also choose to share finished pieces with their interview subjects.

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