Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Name Game

Patricia Cunningham has exceptional authentic ideas for the classroom, especially concerning phonics.  For several years I've put to use a modified version of her name activity from Phonics They Use.

I call it the name game.  It occurs each day, beginning about day four of school and continues daily until each child's name has had a chance to play.  Here's how it works.

It all starts with a hat.  Each child's name is on an index card inside.

The name that comes out is our name for the day.  I start off with a quick modeled writing as we ask the child four questions.  (Four is simply a quick and easy number.)  While the child learns how to use complete sentences, or as I say, "Use all your words" to answer the questions, I write a short newspaper article about them on chart paper.  What I choose to highlight depends on what I feel needs reinforced: spacing, punctuation, capitals, complete sentences, writing words in a snap, pulling words out of the mouth, etc.  After school, the child's newspaper article goes up the wall.

Then we analyze the person's name:
How many capital letters does it have?
We count the letters.
We spell it and at the same time touch our heads when we say a tall letter, hips for small letters, and toes for descending letters.  (This is a useful connection to handwriting.)
We look for and highlight any chunks.
We clap the syllables.
We rhyme with it.  (I let the child choose three rhymers.  "Good rhymers are good readers.")

Then I grab a larger version of the persons name.  The extra space between each letter allows me to cut between them.

The child uses the megaphone (if they'd like) to lead us in a cheer as I cut each letter.  

As I cut the L, Lawrence says, "Give me an L."  The kids respond, "You got your L.  You got your L."  Lawrence places the L in the pocket chart.  As I cut the a, Lawrence says, "Give me an a."  The kids respond, "You got your a.  You got your a."  He places it in the pocket chart and so on until the whole name as been cut.

While I hum a little tune, I scramble his name and ask if it looks right.  

Then the kids chew up his name and pull his name slowly out of their mouths one sound at a time.  They pull and say /l/.  The child chooses someone from the crowd to come to the pocket chart, find that letter, and place on the pocket underneath.  Then the kids pull again, repeating the first sound and pulling out the next.  The child chooses another child to come up.  We continue doing this until the name looks right once again.

Lastly, the name from the hat goes into this song that we then sing.  I borrowed the song from Dr. Jean.  It's sung to the tune "Hello Ladies."

With 23 kids, this obviously takes me 23 days but I feel like the 15 minutes a day is well worth the time.  There are so many skills that I can teach in a very authentic and meaningful way.

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  1. I love the idea of using students' names and I believe it is well worth the time.
    Connie Anderson

    1. Connie, I agree. Their names are powerful tools worth using.

  2. Replies
    1. Tara, thank you. Patricia Cunningham is full of cool ideas.

  3. Name stuff is one of the things I miss the most from teaching 1st grade!
    Chickadee Jubilee

    1. Laurie, there's such magic in their names. I'd miss that too.

  4. I love this idea as well! They get so excited when I even use their name in our morning message, I can see how this would be something that would reach them. :) Thank you for sharing.

    1. Miss Trayers, they do love it when their name comes out of the hat and that it gets to teach the rest of us so many things too.

  5. So many great skills you are covering with this one short activity every day. Love this idea!
    Conversations in Literacy

    1. Lori, I love the efficiency of it too. It really packs a punch.

  6. I often do this, too! We read the same books:). I love your variations.

    1. Barb, cool! I love that we read the same books.