In school, some names invoke teasing. To start our year off right and to stop teasing before it begins, I have students create identity posters about themselves.
We begin by sharing what we know about our names. Who named you? Were you named after someone? Next, I send home a sheet for students to interview their parents or guardians. Why did you give me this name? What does my name mean? What is its origin? Who chose my name?
When students return to class with their answers, we take time to share. Some of the students with the same name discover their parents named them for different reasons. Some find that though they share the same name, their research of origins turned up different meanings.
Students bring in photos of themselves and their families and use magazines to cut out pictures of favorite things. These images, along with written explanations, will be used to create their identity posters. These posters tell who they are and what makes each of them unique.
This provides a springboard discussion for our study of world history. During the year, we will learn about all the world's religions, and students learn that many of their names have religious origins even if it's not the religion their families practice.
We all enjoy walking around the room and looking at the posters. The students' discussions often reveal the importance of this activity. Students ask each other if they like their names, or if they would choose a different name. Once, I overheard a Chinese student tell his classmate, "I'm glad my parents gave me an English-sounding name, but I wish people could pronounce my real name." That year, we all learned how to say his Chinese name correctly. It really wasn't difficult at all.
We hang the posters along the back wall of our classroom all year long. Each week, I take down one to place in a prominent position in the room where everyone can focus on it.
As an extension activity during the year, students create identity posters of famous people we are studying in history.
Students learn that although their names may carry certain information, it is not all of who they are, what they like, do or think. We are multifaceted. This activity curbs students from making fun of each other's names.
Wood Middle School
Teaching Tolerance Recommends
For more information on the importance of the arts in education, read Eric Jensen's Arts with the Brain in Mind ($22.95; ISBN 0-87120-514-9.)