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Name is much more than label

November 6, 2013

Names are everywhere. Children learn about their world by giving names to people, places and things. Here is a fun activity to help young children recognize their own and family members' names. It incorporates counting and number recognition.

Guest writer is educator Mary Davis. For more see and

What to do

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Write the names of family members on a strip of paper. Make each letter the same size with equal spacing among letters. Then ask questions such as what is different about each name?

Children may answer that the letters are different or one is a boy's name and one is a girl's name. Keep trying until you get the answer that one is longer than the other. Point out that everyone's name is different and that their names have a different numbers of letters.

Tell your children they are going to discover how many letters are in each person's name, including other family members, by cutting apart the names. Then listen to them count the letters in their names and check for accuracy. Write the number on a small piece of paper. Help glue the letters of their names on a sheet of construction paper leaving a small space between each letter. Then glue the corresponding number on the paper. At the bottom add the sentence, "I have _______ letters in my name."

Look at all the names and numbers together and make a little book. Ask questions such as who has the longest name? The shortest? Put the book in order from shortest to longest name. Use the ordinal numbers, first, second, and third.

If two names have the same number of letters, arrange the names in alphabetical order. Add a snapshot or a drawing of each person. Finish the book with a front and back cover with children's drawings. To further school readiness, make books using the names of extended family members, friends, pets, or toys.

What else can we do?

Make a Venn diagram from two overlapping circles. Venn diagrams help children look for elements things have in common and place them in the overlapping area of the linked circles. Choose two family names with some letters in common. Place one set of letters in each circle part that does not overlap. Children can search for letters in common and place those in the overlapping section.

Go to the library to find ABC or counting books such as "The Name Jar" by Yangsook Choi, "My Name is Alice" by Jane Bayer, "Ten Black Dots" by Donald Crews or "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" by Eileen Christelow. Make up your own little songs and rhymes by substituting your children's names or look for old favorites such as "Catalina Magdalena" and "Who Ate the Cookie in the Cookie Jar?"

Editor's note: This column is penned by retired Marquette Area Public Schools teachers Iris Katers, Jean Hetrick, and Cheryl Anderegg. Esther Macalady is from Golden, Colorado. Tim Fox currently teaches at Superior Hills Elementary. It's supported by Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, the School of Education, U.P. Children's Museum, U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, and U.P. Parent Awareness of Michigan. Their book "Learning Through the Seasons" is available at area stores and Their mission is to provide fun standards based activities that adults can do in the home to prepare children for school and a lifetime of learning and reduce the stress of child care.



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