Teaching family members used to be a touchy subject to me. When I started planning a lesson from any textbook, I would always think about my students and ask myself lots of questions: Do they have all/most of these family members?, Do they live with their parents?, Who do they live with?, Is their mother/father dead?, Do they get on with their family?, etc. Because of all these questions and because of some of my students’ sad look on their face when I had to teach this subject, I noticed that I had to change the way I went about teaching family members. It does not mean I decided not to teach the syllabus, but first and foremost, I had to teach my students. Here is what I planned to do.
First, in order to teach the vocabulary, I use picture flashcards. If the textbook I am currently using is not accompanied by them, I make my own flashcards by selecting pictures from the internet. I prefer to use picture flashcards instead of a PPT presentation, for instance, because students can touch them and I can work on different activities which involve movement so that chances of them learning the vocabulary are higher due to the number of times in which they can be exposed to the same vocabulary in different ways.
Next, I teach them how to introduce their family members by using the exponent ‘My (family member) is (first name). His/Her last name is ________.’ You should also encourage students to give more information about the family member they are introducing such as age, nationality, hair color, personality, etc. I usually elicit the information which can be given as well as the exponent and write them on the board. You can also ask students to bring family photos to work on this activity. If you choose to use photos, they can start introducing their family members by saying ‘This is my (family member). His/Her name is ________.’ With or without photos, it is also a good idea to have students ask each other questions about the family members. Personally, I prefer not to use family photos because some students may not have them or may not want to bring them. Nevertheless, you can always give them the choice of bringing photos or not.
Finally, I have them write a paragraph about at least two family members (one male and one female) giving as much information about them as possible. You can check it in different ways.
After I follow the above-mentioned steps, I work on the activities from the textbook. However, I always adapt them if I feel that they are going to be embarrassing for my students. By teaching family members this way, I could notice that they felt much more comfortable and were willing to talk about their family.