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Ellen’s ‘family tree’ activity backfires

Ellen had worked hard on her planning to assure that she was well organized and ready to have her fifth graders make a family tree as part of her unit on immigrants. She had all the materials laid out, had explained the assignment and students were organized in groups to share their initial ideas. The students also understood that they were to ask their parents for help with the assignment that evening. When she noticed that Kim, a shy boy, hung back from his group, she went up to him with words of encouragement: “Kim, this is a great chance to learn about your family and your classmates’ families!” Kim replied quietly, hoping no one else would hear, “I’m living with a foster family right now, and they won’t be able to help me with these questions.” Ellen felt a feeling of panic and thought, “How could I have known that?

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