What’s in a Name?

This post was inspired by two pictures I saw on Pinterest.  You should click on the links below to get a closer look.



Ask your students to write their name on a large piece of paper.  Give them coloured pens and pencils.  While the colouring and creating occurs discuss the following concepts:

• How many letters are in your name?
• How many vowels are in your name?
• How many consonants?
• Do you have any double letters in your name?
• What fraction of your name is made up of vowels?
• What fraction of your name is made up of consonants?
• Do you have a middle name?

Model with your own name and show how you would work out the answers for each question.  Model how you want the students to write their responses.  You might want them to write full sentences or complete a table.  Provide time for your students to write the specific information about their own name.  If your students have had lots of experience with comparing you could ask them to talk to their elbow partner and compare the similarities and differences between their names.  If you think it’s necessary you might model this or have the comparing discussion as a whole class.

What a great learning activity?!  Students are writing, reading, creating, speaking, listening, counting and comparing.  They are also beginning to explore fractions and parts of a whole.  They are exploring letters and sounds and how letters work together to make certain sounds.

This activity sparked my interest last year on Pinterest and has inspired me to plan a mini-unit for the first week of term.  “What’s in a Name?”  is the great phrase I have borrowed from Shakespeare to title our week of activities all about names.


Lesson One: will begin with the activity above and will be followed by a “Naming Definition” activity.  I will give each student the definition or traditional meaning for their names and we will share them as a class.  I am looking forward to this conversation.  I think it will be interesting for the students to see how different names sometimes mean the same thing and how some names are derived from others.

Lesson Two: will be a focused numeracy activity.  Students will be using MAB (tens and ones) blocks to make models of their names and talk about their names in terms of how many units.  They can compare how many units are in each letter and how many are in their name.  They can compare between the units in their own name compared with their elbow partner and discuss how the letter formations impact on this.  We will also make our names using Scrabble tiles and see who’s name has the highest score in Scrabble (if names could be used on a Scrabble board of course).

Lesson Three: will be more literacy based as students review the definitions of their names and how they have been derived.  I will talk to them about why we have Surnames and given names.  We will look at the surnames that have been linked to professions such as “SMITH” and ” BAKER” and there are many others.  Then students will complete a Cloze activity and crossword with several of these “professional surnames” in it.


I will be using the following websites to plan and resource my lessons.

Behind the Name: has an easy to use search function.  All I will need to do is type in the student name and click “search” then a page appears with various spelling choices and a basic definition as well as derivation.  Famous people with the searched name are also mentioned.

Another handy search engine and information site is www.babynames.com.

History Today has an interesting and informative article about the derivation of Surnames from Occupations.  It will be helpful for me and I might use snippets as reading material for my students, but I wouldn’t expect my students to read the entire article.

About.com has several articles relating to Genealogy and family tree mapping but I will rely on this Surname Meanings article.

I will let you know how it goes.  Comments and Suggestions are always appreciated! 😀

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