A kindergarten name project is critical to the start of the year in kindergarten. Learning student names is important for both teachers and other students. Names are a very important part of a person’s identity, and it is important that as teachers we value all student names and pronounce them correctly. Completing a kindergarten name project will ensure that all students feel welcome and that they belong in the class. Starting kindergarten with a name project also helps to introduce the letters in students’ names before learning the alphabet!
Learning student names
Learning student names is critical for all teachers and students. It definitely takes students longer to learn each other’s names. This is why morning meeting greetings and other name games are a critical routine for the beginning of the year. I love to use the following greetings, from my Morning Meeting Slides, to help learn each other’s names. I start with the greetings where I sing/chant first. Then as students get more comfortable, I choose greetings where the students need to use each other’s names. I make sure to teach them that if they don’t remember someone’s name, it’s ok! They just have to ask, what’s your name again?
I love to play different name games throughout the year, but especially during the beginning of the year. One game that I love to play is called Who’s Missing? Students put their heads down and I tap someone to go stand in the hallway. Then, I tell everyone to lift their heads up and figure out who is missing. This is a great way to remember everyone’s names! After a few guesses, if someone hasn’t guessed the child yet, I usually give a few clues. If it takes the class a bunch of guesses for one student, I remember this for later. This usually means the child needs to make more connections with other students.
The other name game I love is the Beanbag Challenge. I toss one beanbag (we go over all the expectations of how to do this gently, softly, appropriately, and how only the person whose name is called is allowed to pick up the beanbag) to a student in the circle. That person then tosses the beanbag to another student, making sure to say the name first and get eye contact back before tossing. We continue this until everyone has had a turn with the beanbag. Students can only get the beanbag once.
Then we pass the beanbag around again to the same people as last time, but this time, I add more beanbags to the mix! The most I usually do with kindergarten is 4 beanbags. Otherwise, it gets complicated. This is a great activity to practice student names, as well as review the importance of eye contact and waiting until the person is ready before tossing the beanbag!
Valuing student names
Names are a critical part of people’s identity. They must be valued and pronounced correctly. This is just as important for staff to know as it is for students. I love using picture books to stress the importance of valuing each other’s names, even if they are different from names we are used to. See my Amazon Affiliate Store for a list of all my favorite name books. My kindergarten name project uses three books throughout the week. (Books include my Amazon Affiliate link for your convenience) Chrysanthemum, The Name Jar, and Your Name is a Song.
After reading these stories, my students learn that names are an important part of our identities, and we need to be respectful of each other’s names. We also learn how to pronounce everyone’s name correctly after saying them like a song (from Your Name is a Song)
Sharing the stories of student names
I want all students to be able to share the stories of their names, just like Unhei does in The Name Jar. I send home a paper to parents asking them to share the origins of their child’s name. Once we start getting some of the papers back, I have the child stand with me while they or I tell the story of their name.
Please know your students before starting this project. If you have adopted children in your class, they might feel left out if their parents do not know the origin of their name. You may leave this optional to families or check with any families of concern before sending home the project.
Learning phonics from student names
I tell my students that when we learn the letters of the alphabet, it is very helpful to start with the letters in our own names because we use our names all the time! We focus on the first letter of our name. I have the students make letter crowns by cutting out a pre-drawn large uppercase letter. Then they decorate the letter, and we attach it to a sentence strip. They wear the crowns on their heads. A great challenge after this is to have students line up alphabetically! If you do this with kindergarteners, have some alphabet charts or lines ready to support the students with!
Throughout the week I continue this learning with different transitions. I call up students to line up or get materials based on the first letter of their names. For example, “Anyone whose name starts with an A can line up!”. This is a great informal assessment of who knows the first letter of their name and who doesn’t! If you want to learn more about how I teach the alphabet, check out this blog post!
Whenever I can integrate subjects into projects, I do! I connect math to my kindergarten name project by first having students figure out how many letters their name is! We compare our name lengths to Chrysanthemum’s 13 letter name. Then we make a graph of each other’s names and compare the names. We discuss who has the longest name and who has the shortest name. We also talk about which number of letters is the most common in our class. This is a great introduction to graphing.
A kindergarten name project is a wonderful unit to start your year. It helps students to feel welcome and valued in the class. The kindergarten name project also introduces students to the letters of the alphabet. Have you tried any of these activities with your class? Let me know how they went in the comments!