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August 11

Alex Haley, author of Roots, was born in 1921.

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Alex Haley, author of Roots, was born in 1921.

Grades 5 – 12
Calendar Activity Type Author & Text





Alex Haley's first notable work was as editor of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. He is most remembered for Roots: The Saga of an American Family, which earned a Pulitzer prize in 1976, and then became a very successful television mini-series in 1977. The story, about African slaves brought to America, was based on Haley's search into his own ancestry. Queen, a sequel to Roots, followed in 1993.





Have students explore their own roots by interviewing family members. Students then use their family history as a basis for their writing.

  • First, ask students to identify family members who could share a detailed and interesting family story. Then, have the class brainstorm a list of appropriate questions to "jumpstart" the interview. (Help students think about using both open-ended questions such as "What do you remember about...?" or more specific questions, such as "Where were your parents born?")

  • Have students select and interview (by e-mail, regular mail, telephone, or in person) one or two people.

  • Ask students to use their interviews as a basis for writing a fictional account of their roots, in the way Haley's Roots was based on his own family history.




  • The Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation, Inc.

    The foundation provides a variety of community and educator resources. Teachers can find information on genealogy, biographies of Haley and Kunta Kinte, timelines of African-American history, and more.


  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X

    This teacher's guide is provided by Random House publishers. The page includes discussion questions, as well as a variety of activity suggestions for the classroom.


  • Guide to Family History Research

    This website offers tips to get you started researching your own family history. Included is information about organizing the information you already have, using military records, census data, libraries, and other resources in your research, and sharing your family history.


  • The Genographic Project

    The Genographic Project traces human ancestry through DNA. Individuals can learn about their own history by buying and using a kit prepared for the project.



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Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

A Biography Study: Using Role-Play to Explore Authors' Lives

Students read biographies and explore websites of selected American authors and then role-play as the authors.


Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Exploring and Sharing Family Stories

Writing gets personal when students interview family members in order to write a personal narrative about that person.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Making Connections to Myth and Folktale: The Many Ways to Rainy Mountain

Following the model of N. Scott Momaday's The Way To Rainy Mountain, students write three-voice narratives based on Kiowa folktales, an interview with an Elder, and personal connections to theme.


Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

My Family Traditions: A Class Book and a Potluck Lunch

After analyzing Family Pictures/Cuadros de Familia by Carmen Lomas Garza, students create a class book with artwork and information about their ancestry, traditions, and recipes, followed by a potluck lunch.


Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

My Life/Your Life: A Look at Your Parents' Past

Past and present come together when students interview their parents and create a skit that compares their parents' experiences as middle schoolers with the students' own lives.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Family Memoir: Getting Acquainted With Generations Before Us

Creating a memoir of an older family member allows students both to learn more about their own backgrounds and to learn the power of storytellers.