One fantastic way to kick off the school year is to do a unit about names! It helps students learn each others’ names, making any new students feel more comfortable. It also makes students feel important and see the value in their own name. Below are some recommended books about names (you can find more ideas here) and some activities that are perfect for celebrating names in the classroom. Keep reading to find a freebie!
Looking for more back to school ideas? Check out more B2S posts on my blog!
An acrostic is a simple and easy way to celebrate names in the classroom. Ask students to come up with an adjective that describes them for each letter of their name. I like to brainstorm a list of adjectives for each letter to help students that may have trouble thinking of positive words to describe themselves.
This activity can pair with the book The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. This book is about a little girl named Unhei who is new at school. She just moved from Korea, and on her first day of school, Unhei decides to choose an American name from a jar. However, the American names just don’t feel right. With the help of a new friend, Unhei realizes her own name is the perfect fit.
Students can make an acrostic for their name and put it inside the a name jar like the story!
The Name Jar is a great story to read before completing this activity together. Then display the acrostics in the classroom for everyone to see!
Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow is a beautiful story about a young girl who is frustrated after her teachers and classmates say her name wrong all day. She tells her mother that she doesn’t want to go back to school. Her mother tells her all about the musicality of different names, empowering the little girl to return to school the next day where she shares her new knowledge about names with her class. Before reading, I would recommend you listen to the video below to hear the pronunciations of the names in the book.
Students can spell out their name on a guitar and practice saying each others’ names. They will learn that names are important and everyone deserves to be called by their real name, pronounced correctly.
One of the first books I ever used to celebrate names in my classroom was Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. In this story, Chrysanthemum loves her name, but she gets picked on at school because she is named after a flower. Her class learns from her music teacher that names are special. Chrysanthemum discovers that her name is absolutely perfect.
After reading the story, students can look up the meaning of their name or use the parent interview linked below to write about what makes their name special. An alternative activity is to make a large format chrysanthemum with their photo and name on the stem, as seen below!
One of my favorite books is Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal. It’s about a little girl, Alma Sofia Esperanze Jose Pura Candela, who believes she has too many names. Alma asks her dad about her names and learns that each part of her name has a special meaning. After hearing the story of her name, Alma realizes that it may be perfect for her after all because one day she will have her own story to tell.
This is a fun activity to do with parents! Send home a parent letter telling about the new unit about names and the parent interview. Students will answer questions about their name with the help of their parents! They can then choose one of the things they learned to add to their My Special Name page to display in the classroom.
This interview activity could really be done with any book about names! It’s very versatile. There are also two simpler versions of the interview for younger students, like the one seen in the image above.
Celebrating Names in the Classroom with a Freebie!
And now it’s time for your freebie…
I hope these ideas help you to celebrate the names in your classroom during this back to school season!
Hi, I’m Libby!
I’m so happy you’re here! I love all things first grade – the curriculum, the content, and the sweet kiddos. I’m passionate about helping K-2 teachers save time in the classroom with fresh ideas and fun, engaging resources.