In my kindergarten class I have a wide range of learners – from the few who aren’t quite sure what a letter is to the few who are fluently reading Hattie and the Fox. I’m sure many of you can relate to this! I was reflecting on my work with the kids who had no known letters, or only a few, and wondering what our next steps were. I always start with the known, so names were my launching point. We did many name activities and these students were beginning to consistently know a few letters from their names. I wanted to create a book with them to keep in their book box and to help reinforce the teaching I was doing. These particular students were not quite ready to start an ABC book like the ones Pat and I refer to in Chapter 6 of Catching Readers. Since they had very limited letter knowledge, (2-5 known letters), I wanted to start with something more in their ZPD. So I decided to make them a “name book”.
“For almost every young learner, knowledge of one’s name unlocks a multitude of understandings. A name forms a link in helping a child learn about print.”
I made the books with enough pages for each letter in the child’s name and one additional title page. I wrote the full name (first name only – for now) on the cover, making the capital letters red and the lowercase letters blue. Then I put a picture of the child on the cover as well. On the inside pages I wrote the letters of the child’s name – one per page – again with the capital in red and the lowercase in blue. I sat down with each child as I created this and the child chose links (pictures or words) to go with each letter. They either put a sticker on that page or drew a picture. These books can now be read with the children, read independently and kept in book boxes or read with a buddy. Currently, I only made name books for my children who are working on learning their names and the letters in their names. But I think all the children would enjoy having one of these books. It would make a great book basket for our reading area and would allow children to learn each other’s names.
Some other concepts that can be taught by using names and the name books:
*The connections between letters and sounds
*That letters can be written in two ways (upper and lower case, like David)
*The same sound can be represented by different letters (Jasmin, Gerald)
*Concept of word vs. letter (“Jose’s name is a word. How many letters are in this word? Let’s count them.”)
*Long and short words (“Jackeline’s name is a long word, Bo’s name is a short word.”)
*Words have parts (“Let’s clap Alexander’s name. Let’s clap Ann. How many parts?”)
Names are such a powerful tool for teaching in the early grades. How else are you using children’s names to teach?