What's in a Name?

There are lots of sayings about names, and most of them are at best only partially true. In this lesson, students investigate the meanings and origins of their names in order to establish their own personal histories and to explore cultural significance of naming traditions. Students begin by writing down everything they know about their own names, then the teacher shares details about his or her own name story. Next, students use an online tool to research their own or someone else’s name and share their findings with the class. Finally, students write about their own names, using a passage from Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street as a model. This lesson allows students to make decisions on sources they want to use in the research of their family name. It will encourage them to look for credibility, reliability, consistency, strengths , and limitations of resources. They can even provide evidence to help them determine if their source was a primary or seconday source.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.1
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.2
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.3
Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.1
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts,...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.6
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 6 Language...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.1
Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.10
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two)...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.2
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.3
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.4
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.5
With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.8
Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources; assess the credibility of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and...
GLE 0601.1.1
Demonstrate control of Standard English through the use of grammar and mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, and spelling).
GLE 0601.2.1
Demonstrate critical listening skills essential for comprehension, evaluation, problem solving, and task completion.
GLE 0601.2.2
Begin to differentiate between summarizing and paraphrasing.
GLE 0601.2.6
Understand strategies for expressing ideas clearly and effectively in a variety of oral contexts.
GLE 0601.2.8
Participate in work teams and group discussions.
GLE 0601.3.1
Write in a variety of modes for different audiences and purposes.
GLE 0601.3.2
Employ various prewriting strategies.
GLE 0601.3.3
Organize ideas into an essay with an introduction, developing paragraphs, conclusion, and appropriate transitions.
GLE 0601.3.4
Refine strategies for editing and revising written work.
GLE 0601.4.2
Gather relevant information from a variety of print and electronic sources, as well as from direct observation, interviews, and surveys.
GLE 0601.4.3
Make distinctions about the credibility, reliability, consistency, strengths, and limitations of resources, including information gathered from websites.
GLE 0601.4.4
Write a research paper, using primary and secondary sources and technology and graphics, as appropriate.
SPI 0601.1.1
Identify the correct use of nouns (i.e., common/proper, singular/plural, possessives) and pronouns (i.e., agreement, subject, object) within context.
SPI 0601.1.10
Identify the correct spelling of plurals and possessives.
SPI 0601.1.18
Identify correctly and incorrectly spelled words in context.
SPI 0601.2.4
Select the most appropriate behaviors for participating productively in a team (e.g., contribute appropriate and useful information and ideas, understand the...
SPI 0601.2.5
Identify the functions and responsibilities of individual roles within an organized group (i.e., reporter, recorder, information gatherer, leader, timekeeper).
SPI 0601.3.1
Identify the purpose for writing (i.e., to inform, to describe, to explain, to persuade).
SPI 0601.3.12
Select the most appropriate format for writing a specific work-related text (i.e., instructions, directions, letters, memos, e-mails, reports).
SPI 0601.3.5
Select illustrations, descriptions, and/or facts to support key ideas.
SPI 0601.3.8
Select appropriate time-order or transitional words/phrases to enhance the flow of a writing sample.
SPI 0601.3.9
Select an appropriate concluding sentence for a well-developed paragraph.
SPI 0601.4.3
Determine the most appropriate research source for a given research topic.
TSS.ELA.6.L.CSE.1
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage.
TSS.ELA.6.L.CSE.2
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. When reading or writing, explain the functions of...
TSS.ELA.6.L.KL.3
When writing and speaking, vary sentence patterns for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style; maintain consistency in style and tone.
TSS.ELA.6.SL.CC.1
Prepare for collaborative discussions on 6th grade level topics and texts; engage effectively with varied partners, building on others' ideas and...
TSS.ELA.6.SL.PKI.6
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
TSS.ELA.6.W.PDW.4
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
TSS.ELA.6.W.PDW.5
With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new...
TSS.ELA.6.W.RBPK.8
Integrate relevant and credible information from print and digital sources; quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding...
TSS.ELA.6.W.RW.10
Write routinely over extended time frames and shorter time frames for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
TSS.ELA.6.W.TTP.1
Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
TSS.ELA.6.W.TTP.2
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of...
TSS.ELA.6.W.TTP.3
Write narratives (fiction and nonfiction) to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective techniques, relevant descriptive details, and...
 
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
 
Learning objectives: 

Student Objectives:

Students will

  • explore naming conventions.
  • analyze the underlying connotations of names. 
  • analyze the ways that name-giving practices vary from one culture to another. 
  • compose personal statements on their own names, based on a model.

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Applying
Extension suggestions: 

Extensions:

  • Use the ReadWriteThink lesson Avalanche, Aztek, or Bravada? A Connotation Minilesson to explore naming and connotation in more detail.
  • If desired, you can use the Interactive Venn Diagram at any point in this lesson to compare two versions of the passage. Ask students to list characteristics of the original in the left circle, characteristics of the copy-change version in the right circle, and features that the two versions share in the overlapping middle section. 
  • Extend the copy-change exploration by sharing some of the works by Cisneros and asking students to apply the same strategies to create poems of their own, modeled on Cisneros’ work. 
  • Have students do an author study of Sandra Cisneros. The Sandra Cisneros Websites from Thompson-Gale Resources and the WebEnglish Teacher feature biographical information and other classroom resources you can use.

Helpful Hints

Preparation:

  • Make copies or transparencies of the Name Story Assignment, excerpt from Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street, and Sample Student Copy Change Passages. 
  • Create overhead transparencies of the Copy Change Demonstration Sheets. 
  • Schedule this lesson so that students will have time to interview or gather details about the names they’re exploring. If you complete the first session on the last day of a week, for instance, students will have the weekend to interview someone for the activity. 
  • Gather Baby Name Books from your library, being sure to obtain books that cover a range of cultural names. Try to find books that provide some details on name origins, frequency of use, historical figures with similar names, and so forth. In addition to the books included on the general list, there are numerous books that explore specific naming traditions. 
  • Pay attention to the specific situations of your students as they research names in this activity and adapt the activities as necessary. 
  • Students may not have access to family members who can provide background on where their names came from. Additionally, if a student’s name points to a source of contention within that student’s family or elsewhere, provide alternative options for this activity. Ideally, simply explain during the first session that students can research someone else in their family or community, and provide examples of other possible choices (e.g., the school principal’s name, the town mayor’s name). Students might also research the names of heroes, celebrities, or historical figures. Work the alternatives into the activity naturally so that students with special situations do not feel singled out.
  • Test the What’s in a Name? interactive on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

 

References

Contributors: