This week, I welcomed 21 excited five year olds to kindergarten. It all started with Parent Orientation and Meet the Teacher nights. At “Meet the Teacher” I can quickly gage where a child may be coming from when entering my room. I simply ask the child if he/she can find his/her name in the classroom. Some can, some have parent help, some locate a name with the same first letter. I, sadly, push through some parents’ obvious discomfort with my name (Ms. Gay). It is unfortunate how many times I repeat it, they repeat it back in a questioning tone, and I say yes. I’ve had name discussions with students before – even to the point of explaining why my name is what it is. I take this feeling into consideration when I look at student names and desperately want to pronounce them correctly. I do not ever want a child to feel embarrassed by a name. But I digress…
Many of my little ones (and their parents) weren’t sure what to expect — they have never been to any kind of school before. There are a lot of questions and a lot of things to adjust to. Even in our hectic practices of rituals and routines, we find plenty of time for stories – lots of them.
On the very first day, we read Chrysanthemum (one of my all time favorites). I find it to be an excellent spring board for all sorts of discussions about friendship, school, and being brave. We talk about our names and how we love them. We talk about how many letters we think we have in our name and who has the longest. We talk about the teachers and the students in the story and how they treat each other. Kevin Henkes does amazing things! I read and reread and reread his books throughout the year. We will be rereading Chrysanthemum this week and exploring our names through different activities. I encourage you to try some in your own class – no matter what the grade level. I found that my fifth graders loved Chrysanthemum too!
Recognizing and working with names is an important activity to use with students in regards to literacy. In many cases, their names are students’ first associations with letters/sounds/meaning. Some children can spell their names, but cannot identify letters in isolation. I am a huge supporter of Fountas and Pinnel (not just because that’s what I use at my school). I turn to them for advice on all things literary. In their book Literacy Beginnings, they discuss names and the important connection children are able to make.
“Once children learn that their names are words and that they are made with the same letters in the same order each time, they begin to understand the concept of a word” (Ch. 20, p 194).
I’m not the only who agrees with their philosophy. Read more: http://www.teachpreschool.org/2011/07/literacy-beginnings-chaper-20-names/#ixzz2cwSBK8m0
Never devalue the importance of a name.