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Connecting to the Past - Intermediate Mid

Lesson Information

Positive Psychology Learning Outcomes

Students will…

  1. approach the past with an attitude of curiosity and gratitude.
  2. describe and remember a family member with an attitude of gratitude.

Language Learning Outcomes

Students will…

  1. use high-frequency general vocabulary.
  2. use circumlocution to clarify meaning.
  3. understand explicit main ideas.
  4. connect content to background knowledge.

Materials Needed


Connecting to the past by learning about our ancestors is key to understanding who we are, thus being more mindful of the present. Learning about our ancestors with an attitude of curiosity and gratitude can increase our positive emotion. Getting to know more about those who came before us can help us become more resilient in the present as we realize they also faced trials and overcame them successfully. Learning about our ancestors can also help us identify the origin of some character strengths or even physical traits making us more aware and grateful for them.

Activate Background Knowledge

Help students understand the concept of ‘Connecting to the past’ by showing examples of different Disney movies which illustrate the importance of the Family. Ask students if they have seen Coco. If not, you or another student might explain Coco’s story. Show the following video clip. 

Coco - "We Are Family!" 

After watching, have students brainstorm other movies that might have an emphasis in learning about family history. Some examples you could give are Mulan, Moana, or even Harry Potter. 

Activity 1: Vocabulary

Write the following words on the board. Review definitions and pronunciations of each word.



Family history

Family member




Activity 2: Speaking

To practice more vocabulary, explain that the students will play a game to practice circumlocution. Just like how being aware of our family helps us be more aware of ourselves, using surrounding words, descriptions, or definitions to help find new vocabulary is a valuable skill. Explain that the students will look to the board for reference. Use the slide that contains various vocabulary for members of a family. Have the students use circumlocution to describe the word to a partner and have their partner guess the vocabulary word that they are describing. 

For example, if a student chooses “aunt”, they could describe it as 

“My mom’s sister”. 

Activity 3: Speaking

In partners, ask students to describe their families. They can use the following questions to guide their description. 

  • How many siblings do you have? 
  • What does your family like to do? 
  • Is your family close? Why? 
  • What are some characteristics of your siblings or parents? 

Invite students to think of things about their families that make them happy, it can be family traditions, anecdotes, or just memories. 

Activity 4: Listening

Watch the following video about Pharrell discovering her family history. Have students discuss what they saw in the video. They can answer the following questions: 

Pharrell Reacts to Family History in Finding Your Roots | Ancestry 

How did Pharrell feel after learning about his family history? 

Activity 5: Speaking

After watching the Pharrell video, explain that there are a lot of ways to learn about our family members, even without a TV show. Have students work in pairs or groups to brainstorm other ways to connect to our past. After, work as a class to make a list of ideas. 

For example: 

  • Write in a journal 
  • Interview a parent, grandparent, or other family members 
  • Look at old pictures 
  • Remember a family member who has died
  • Learn more about your country of origin 

Activity 6: Writing

One idea of how we might connect with our past is remembering someone from our family and what they have done for us. You can use the following pamphlet to guide the writing exercise or simply ask students to write about an experience they had with a family member, living or one who has passed away. Invite students to pay close attention to how they feel while recalling the experience with that special person. Encourage them to look back to their past with an attitude of gratitude.


Activity 7: Speaking

Ask students to share how they felt after writing about their family members. Ask students how connecting to the past could help their language learning. Example answers could include the following: 

  • Generational healing
  • Giving ancestors/culture a voice in a global world
  • Pursuing an education that lifts entire generations
  • Identifying genetic traits that help them learn/use language, etc.

Activity 8: Listening (Meditation)

Help students understand that connecting to the past helps us be more mindful of the present. Another way to be more mindful and present is by practicing meditation. Explain that we will finish this lesson with a short meditation to help us be more mindful. 

3-minute Mindful Breathing Meditation (Relieve Stress) 


Ask students to set a time to think about a skill or talent they have in the present (such as dancing, baking, singing, playing soccer, etc) that was taught to them by a member of their family. Then have them find a way to express gratitude to that person either by a call, a text message, or a little thank you note (these are just some ideas but let them know they can get as creative as they want). If that person is not alive anymore, maybe they could just write about it in their journal.



Share the following quotes with the students 

“We discover something about ourselves when we learn about our ancestors.”

  • President Thomas S. Monson

“Discover your family, find yourself.” 

  • Family Search

After sharing the quotes, ask students what these mean to them. Review how learning about family history will help us understand ourselves more. Invite students to share their thoughts with each other and highlight any comments on how family history connects to mindfulness and being present. 


What is the origin of your last name? If students have access to family search, they can find the origin of their last name on the Activities tab. Otherwise, students could google “Origin of (last name)”. Have students share with a classmate where their last name is from and the meaning of their last name. 


Review the possible ways of connecting with our past and the potential benefits. Have students set a goal to better connect with their past. Ask them to write down their goal and even ways to achieve their goal. 

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