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Cryptic Family Tree

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This is a great activity for revising family vocabulary with teenagers.

You'll need to pre-teach family vocab, associated words and phrases such as "is married to" and the concept of family trees (I drew my family tree on the board).

First, you need to create a fictional family tree, two families of three or four generations connected by a married couple. Use names the students are familiar with so as not to distract them with the difficulty of pronouncing them! Make sure there is an opportunity for all family vocab to be used, with cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, great-grandparents etc.

Then you need to make a list of statements about the family tree such as "Tom is Lisa's nephew", "Lucy is Susan's daughter", "Rob is not married". (I sometimes included some other information that wasn't necessary to complete the family tree to make the statements more interesting, such as "Bill's a busy policeman so he doesn't see his parents Jan and Neil very often.) The aim is that there are enough statements, or clues, for the students to be able to construct the entire family tree but not without some discussion and lateral thinking! Provide only two clues at most as to where each family member belongs in the family tree, and try not to connect members directly. For example, I said that "Dave has two daughters" but I didn't name them and the only other reference naming them was as the mother or wife of other people. Don't forget to make it clear which two people connect the two branches of the tree, though!

Before you give this to your students, check yourself that the entire family tree can be constructed from your clues.

The clues can be dictated or given on a handout.

You need to give students, in pairs or small groups, plenty of time to work out the correct solution. Maybe you could give a small prize to the first group to hand you the completed family tree.

I will admit it took a bit of time for me to prepare this activity but the students really enjoyed the challenge. Suprisingly enough, I found the boys who usually can't be bothered got really involved when it came to solving a logical problem like this and actually found the solution first!

If you need the actual family tree and clues that I used with my Chinese students, please feel free to email me.

[email protected]
Hunan Province, China

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