ESL Family Tree Projects

Instructor: Lisa Howells

Lisa's teaching experience includes various grades and subjects K-8 and postsecondary. Her Master's degree is in Education and Administration.

An ESL family tree project allows English learners to gain vocabulary related to people, family members, and relationships. This ESL project can be used with young or adult students who are learning English as a second language.


The purpose of this activity is to build background using the students' families to develop vocabulary and discuss relationships. Recall that building background means helping an individual connect new terms, ideas and concepts to that person's past experience and knowledge base. Connecting current concepts to a learner's past experience can help anchor the concept in a relevant context that the student can access.

Approaches to Building Background

There are several ways to approach building background including:

  • Pre-teaching key vocabulary
  • Making learning connections through experience
  • Teaching a conceptual framework for students to begin to develop their own background

An ESL family tree project combines pre-teaching vocabulary with making learning connections through experience.

Family Tree Template

ESL Family Tree Project

An ESL family tree can take several forms: visual, oral, and/or written. The learning mode will vary depending on the age and skill level of the students. Additionally, when planning a family tree project, consider that a family assignment might not always be easy for your ESL students, depending on their personal experiences, so be sure to be sensitive in your discussions.

ESL Family Tree for Elementary or Beginning ESL Students


Before the lesson, prepare a set of flash cards with the names/titles of family members. Have one set for each group of not more than 5 students.

Find photos or pictures of families in magazines, preferably a variety of families that include different family members.


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