Family History: On Your Honor


Student notebooks and Monologue Planner reproducible


Related episode

Spotlight on a possible connection between a medal and a top secret military mission in World War II.




What constitutes bravery?


Estimated Time Required

1-2 class periods





Related Reproducible

Students use this reproducible to take notes and collect information that will guide the writing of monologues about family members.



Students brainstorm acts of bravery and courage from literature, history, movies and television. After watching the suggested excerpt from the History Detectives episode Leopold Medal, they profile, in the form of a monologue, a family member who committed a brave act.


Before Viewing

Invite students to brainstorm acts of bravery and courage that they can think of from literature and history as well as movies and television. Prompt them to think of truly extraordinary acts, like the saving of many lives or sacrificing one's own safety or life, as well as more commonplace or minor examples, like making a minor confession. List all student ideas on the board.

As a class, take stock of the list and discuss it. Do these examples fall into categories? If so, how might we categorize them? Which seem truly unusual? Which might you yourself do over the course of your life? Which ones have you already done? What do you think of the people who performed these acts? Do any of them come to be largely defined by these acts? What might be gained from learning more about these figures in all their complexity, and about the acts they performed in their context?



After showing the History Detectives episode "Leopold Medal," explain to students that they will find out about their family's history with respect to acts of bravery and courage.

Begin by having students start to create their family trees in preparation to do a genealogy project focused on acts of bravery and courage in their ancestry. To do this project, they might use an interactive tool like Storytree.

Have them quickly jot down their family trees as far as they know them.

Next, return to the brainstorm that students generated at the start of class. Which are similar to actions they know have been taken by members of their family in the past? Or they may have relatives who have served in wars, saved others' lives, confessed a difficult truth or countless other acts of bravery and courage. Looking at their family trees, they can jot down any inklings they may have from hearing family stories, about the people on the trees having committed such acts.

They should prepare to interview a family member about their own act of bravery or one they know about from their shared family tree. For example, a mother may tell a story about how a grandparent faced many fears to immigrate to this country or how a great-uncle hid his family to avoid being moved to a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

Then have students create monologues using the Monologue Planner reproducible written in the voice of the family member whose brave act they learned about, and perform them for the class. Browsing a library of sample monologues may be a good starting point for this activity. 


Going Further

Organize a Monlogue Café where students can share and perform their monologues. Invite them to dress in period dress and bring in objects or images that bring alive the character they are representing. Afterwards, discuss how these individual stories – including the story of Joseph Goularte Sr. from the "Leopold Medal" episode – help us understand the human stories that underlie and make up human history.



Detective Technique: Genealogy

Detective Technique Guide: Interviewing a Parent

New York Times Learning Network Lesson Plan: Express Yourself: Crafting Social Location Maps and Identity Monologues


McRel Standards

Historical Understanding

1. Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns

2. Understands the historical perspective


Language Arts

4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes

8. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes