As you begin to plan activities for back to school, you definitely should consider spending time learning and celebrating students’ names. Students come to us from many different places, cultures, and backgrounds, and their names say a lot about who they are. In this post, I share some books and activities that will encourage students to share and celebrate their names with you and their classmates.
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Why should we learn and celebrate students’ names?
Students’ names holds special meaning about who they are and where they are from. In our classrooms, it should be our goal to make all students feel welcome, valued, and respected for who they are as individuals. Many times, this can simply start with learning their names. Many students take a lot of pride in their names, whether they were named after someone special, or if their name holds a special meaning, based on their culture, religion, or where they are from. We as teachers, should take time to learn our students’ names and how to pronounce them correctly.
Using name activities at the beginning of the year is a great way for students to introduce themselves to you and to their classmates. There are many name activities that are widely used in the lower grades. I wanted to find something that would be meaningful for students in upper grades, as a way for students to share and celebrate their names. Hopefully, you will find these books and activities useful in your own classroom.
Start with a picture book
A picture book is a great way to start a conversation about names, their history, and their meanings. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi has always been a favorite of mine. However, I also recently discovered My Name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed. Both of these stories are beautifully written and illustrated, and show the value of learning and sharing students’ names, how they are pronounced, and the meaning behind them. They also emphasize the sense of pride that one has of his or her name, and the acceptance and celebration of those names. If you would like to learn more about these books, you can click on the pics below (affiliate links).
An Activity to Celebrate Students’ Names
Start out by having students reflect and take notes about their names. The first page of this activity provides a list of questions for students to consider. The questions may not all apply to all students. Students should pick and choose those they want to focus on. This first part would be great to send home for homework during the first week of school. That would give students a chance to discuss their names and these questions with family members.
Once students have jotted down notes, have them write the “story” of their names, addressing as many questions as possible. Encourage them to make their stories their own, and to share what they feel is most important.
Finally, give students the opportunity to share their name “stories” with their classmates. This activity is a great way for students to share something about themselves and make connections with their classmates. It also helps give you a chance to learn about and celebrate each of your students.
Download this free activity
Use the form below to download this free activity. You will also be able to access other engaging resources from my Free Resource Library.