Our Family: Film Lesson Guide | Not in Our Town

Our Family: Film Lesson Guide

Grade Level: 
Elementary (K-5)

Download the full lesson guide that accompanies Our Family.


Families in the United States today come in many different types and sizes, yet children can go through their entire elementary school years without seeing the rich diversity of families around them and only learning about the stereotypical family configuration: two parents/caregivers of the same background and children under one roof. Yet that is not the reality for a large number of children in the United States. The reality of today is that America’s children come from families that may be living in one home or two, being raised by two parents /caregivers, one mother, or one father,  by step parents or by grandparents and extended family members. Some have parents/caregivers of different ethnic backgrounds, or those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Others have some family members who are incarcerated, while some have parents who passed away or who live in different countries. Some families have adopted children, or those in foster care. There are families with transgender or gender-questioning children, and also families with members who have disabilities. Many have an extended family living under one roof. Most families have so many things in common, yet they are also unique and special in their own ways .

As children grow up, they need to see, hear, and learn about people like themselves and also learn about others who might be different from them. They need to feel that their families are welcomed and accepted just as they are and that their family type is reflected in the curriculum and world of schooling. This film seeks to offer students a chance to see and talk about some of these many different family configurations. The film has a clear purpose: to show children in grades K-5 that there are many kinds of families, to help them appreciate their own family configuration, and to be open to those who are different from them. The film and activities are also designed to open a conversation, to encourage constructive dialogue, and to give children the opportunity to share about their own families in a supportive and accepting way.

Film Synopsis:

"Our Family" (7:30)  showcases students in grades K-5 and their families sharing about their concept of what family means to them. We meet many kinds of families: large and small families, multigenerational families, families with a mom and a dad, a single dad or mom, two moms or two dads. The film also shows adopted children, families who speak a language other than English, and families with two parents/caregivers of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Family members share what is special about each other, moments of struggle, and above all express love for one another. The film also shows school events and celebrations with all the diverse families having fun together. The film closes with the wise words of young Nathan, who says, “It is important to have diverse children, to have diverse families in a school so you know how to include everyone... you don’t just go to the people who are like you, you reach out and embrace everyone.”

How to use this film and guide:

This guide is designed to support educators who will be showing the family diversity film in grades K-5 classrooms and as part of family education sessions . The guide offers pre- and post-viewing questioning strategies, discussion prompts, and extension activities . Since this film aims to reach children at a range of developmental levels and in communities with greater or lesser exposure to the many types of family differences, teachers can customize the lessons to fit their particular context . This lesson guide also includes a “pause guide” with key moments that you as a teacher can use to stop the film and ask questions, to find out what the students are thinking and feeling, to teach relevant vocabulary, and to add to the students’ knowledge base .

To download the full guide, available for free, please click here.



Kudos to Dr. Cohn-Vargas and everyone involved in creating this film! Diversity is indeed a wonderful asset to the community- not something to be feared. The beautiful families highlighted in the video affirm that "family values" are human values, such as caring, respect, empathy, and inclusion. I can't wait to recommend this resource to the elementary level educators, parents, and children with whom I work! The viewing guide is excellent as well. Keep up the great work, as it is much needed now, as much as ever.

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