My Family Tradition

One year a parent volunteer taught a poetry lesson to my students called “My Unusual Thanksgiving.”  She had students brainstorm a list of what made their Thanksgiving different from others.  She shared how her culturally diverse family celebrated with a mix of traditions. Together we guided the students through the writing process to create a list poem.

Over the years, I have continued to teach this lesson to my classes, and added a Five Senses Graphic Organizer for collecting details from their memories or observations.  I could send the organizer home over holiday breaks, so they could record observations right after the event.

As my classes have become more diverse, I have opened up this writing prompt to include other family traditions and celebrations. November and December have a number of holidays that students could use for this assignment.

I have recorded below my step by step instructions to my students.  You can get a copy of my Five Senses Graphic Organizer here.

Directions for the Student

Write a description of a family tradition that is special for you in some way.

  1. Carefully observe or remember the event using all five senses.  Use the Five Senses Graphic Organizer to record specific details.  Try to include details that make your family celebration unique.
  2. Write a rough draft of your experience using your organizer to remind you of specifics.  As you write, continue to add who was there, where you held the gathering, and activities your family participates in.
  3. Set your draft aside for a day or so.  When you read it again, look for ways to elaborate—adding more details and explanation.
  4. Read it aloud to another student to find out how well you explained or described different parts of your tradition.  Take notes as they ask you questions so you can clarify what they didn’t understand. Don’t forget to listen to their story and give them helpful feedback as well.
  5. Once you have the content of your family tradition, read it over three more times; once for spelling, once for punctuation, and once for capital letters. Sometimes reading it word by word from the end to the beginning helps you find errors you might not otherwise catch.
  6. Now create a blog post on Kidblog using a picture you have parent permission to post.  This could be of family members, food, special clothes or other items that are featured in your tradition.  Be sure to read it over one more time before you publish.

I enjoy writing assignments where students share and appreciate the similarities and differences of their classmates.  Families usually enjoy participating in these assignments, as well.

About the Author
Mary J. Bauer is a fifth grade teacher in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. She has been teaching elementary students for twenty-five years. She also blogs at


  1. Tammy Reardon

    I love this assignment! I wonder if any of your students would be willing to share their work with my class. We are also talking about the diversity of our families and traditions.

    • Mary Bauer

      Hi Tammy,

      We would love to share with you. I will email you at school.


  2. Kelly Wilson

    Hello Mary,

    I love this idea. My students write and work best when they have a mentor text to read and discuss. Could you provide an example or two?

    Thank you,
    Kelly Wilson

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