What's in a Name?
by Judie Haynes
Do your students drop their names in order to become Michael or Karen? Help English language learners develop positive self esteem and pride in their native language names.
Many newcomers to the United States arrive at school on the first day with a new American name. Perhaps their native language name is difficult for English speakers to pronounce. Or their parents want them to fit in with their classmates. Give these students an opportunity to feel pride in their native language names with these back-to-school activities.
Lesson TopicDeveloping cultural pride
Proficiency/Grade LevelBeginners, Advanced Beginners 2-6
Content Concepts and SkillsIdentification and pronunciation of native language names; cultural identity; pride in home language and culture.
I. If your class contains advanced beginning English language learners or a mixed group or beginning and advanced beginning ELLs this is an ideal activity for the first week of school. Download PDF file Name Lesson.
- Ask students what name they use when speaking their language. What does their mother call them? What name do they use in school? What do their friends call them?
- Write down each child's American name on chart paper. Have students write their native language name next to it. Try to find out how the name is written in English if another alphabet is used in native language. Talk about what "given" and "family" names are. This is necessary because many cultures write the family name first. Help students fill in the first two blanks with their family and given names in English. If a student is using their native language name but it is pronounced differently, then for the purposes of this activity, that becomes their "American" name.
- Have students fill out the rest of the first page. Students who normally write their family name first will switch it around on this page as they would normally do in school.
- The second page needs to be individualized for each student. Many students don't know how to write the name of their language in English and will need help. They should complete the first for responses by writing their native language name in English and in native language. At the end of the activity encourage students to write their name exactly as they would in their native language.
- Have students color in the white letters to decorate the form>
II. Another activity to use with a mixed ability ESL group is the Biopoem. This poem can be accompanied by a self-portrait.
- Download PDF file Biopoem. Explain to students that this form is a rough copy. This gives you the opportunity to add lines if you wish. Students will copy the whole piece over after they write the rough copy.
- Discuss different ways of greeting people. Let students choose whether they want to write "Hi," "Hello" or some other greeting. Encourage a native language greeting if the student knows how to write it.
- In the first line students can choose what to write. It could be their name "Hung sook;" their country affiliation "Korean;" or an adjective about themselves "good in math."
- In the second line have students circle "girl" or "boy" and cross out the word they don't need.
- On line three students should write the name of their country.
- On lines four and five, have students put something they love and something they hate. You may need to provide examples.
- On line six the student needs to put their name if they didn't do so in the first line. Otherwise they can put their country or an attribute.
- Display student work in a prominent place!
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