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Connecting to the Past - Novice High

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. connect content to background knowledge.
  3. create lists of words, phrases, and sentences.

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.

  • Ancestors 
  • Genealogy 
  • Family history
  • Family member
  • Remember
  • History
  • Traditions

Activity 2: Vocabulary/Speaking

Place students in groups. As groups, students must brainstorm all vocabulary they remember for members of a family. Give the groups two minutes to talk about and list the vocabulary. The team with the most words wins. After the activity, review words that students were unsure of. 

Activity 3: Listening

Watch the following video about Genealogy and have students discuss what they saw in the video. 

School of DNA | Ancestry 

    They can answer the following questions: 

    • How did the parents feel when they found out about their genealogy?
    • What are some adjectives you heard (emotional, surprised, happy, …)

    You may also encourage students to share how well they stayed focused on the video and how they felt about their own ancestors as they watched.

    Activity 4: Writing

    Review the conjugations for the verbs to be and to have. Practice using these in sentences to describe people. For example: 

    • My sister has brown hair. 
    • My mom is short. 
    • My dad has the same nose as me. 

    Ask students to think about one family member that is special to them and write a description of that person. Invite students to focus on the feelings that come to them when thinking of that special person. You can use the "My Family" pamphlet to guide the writing exercise. They can write a physical description or write about that person’s personality (or both). Remind students to use the verb to be and to have to describe their family member.


    Activity 5: Speaking

    In partners or groups, have students share about the family member that they wrote about. If students have access to pictures on their phones, invite them to share with their group. 

    Activity 6: Listening (Meditation)

    Help students recognize 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 them 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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