I mentioned in an earlier post that motivating little readers to join the literacy club isn't always easy, but it's made easier when the curriculum is woven into the meaning of their own lives. What's more meaningful than their own name? It was probably one of the first words they learned to read and write, and thanks to the ideas of Patricia Cunningham, I get a lot of mileage out of those little names at the beginning of the year.
Each day a name is drawn out of the hat, and we spend about 15 minutes learning as much as we can about phonemic awareness, reading, and writing from that name. We clap it, rhyme with it, count the letters, talk about if the letters are tall, short, or low, look for chunks hiding inside of it, cut it apart and put it back together, etc. We also take time to interview the special person who belongs to the name through a shared writing experience. The interviewers ask a few questions, and I write the child's answers in front of everyone, as I focus on certain parts of the writing process that are appropriate at the moment. When all is said and done, the interviews go up on the wall. When they come down, I make a book out of them before sending them home. Here's an example from our book. By the end of the year, it's obvious from its bumps and bruises that it was a favorite.