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Lesson Plan

Investigating Names to Explore Personal History and Cultural Traditions

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Investigating Names to Explore Personal History and Cultural Traditions

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English







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  • Make copies or transparencies of the Name Story Assignment, excerpt from Sandra Cisnerosí 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 theyíre 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 studentís name points to a source of contention within that studentís 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 principalís name, the town mayorís 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 Whatís 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.

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