Letter Learning Through a Child’s Name

Due to COVID-19, I have found myself taking a departure from my role as a literacy interventionist. For this school year, I have returned full circle to where my teaching career began more than 20 years ago – a kindergarten teacher.

My primary literacy goals for these little ones are to instill a love of reading and to make students curious and interested in exploring letters and words. With these goals in mind, I thought that a good place to start, as far assessing my students’ letter knowledge, was to have them write their names. As my students wrote their names, I took notes about whether they could write their name with or without a copy and whether they had an appropriate pencil grasp. I also checked to see if they knew the names of the letters in their name in and out of order.

The second assessment that I administered to my students was a letter identification assessment. I took note of any way students could identify a letter whether it was by its name, sound, or a word that started with that letter.

I know that one of the most powerful tools for helping students learn letters is their own name and their classmates’ names. Children feel a great sense of accomplishment when they can write their name. As students make friends they enjoy finding their friends’ names around the room and writing their friends’ names for themselves.

Name Puzzles

After administering my assessments, I created a name puzzle for any of my students who could not write their name without a copy and/or did not know the letters in their name. With my smaller class size this year, I have been able to give these students 1:1 attention at different times during the day to work on their name puzzle, letter formation, and letter names. For more information on using name puzzles read: Kindergarten Letter Knowledge: Predictor of Future At-Risk Readers

The procedure I follow is very similar to what Jan Richardson describes in her Pre-A lesson plans.

  1. The student puts together his/her name puzzle using his/her name written on the front of their envelope for help. The student should put together the puzzle under the envelope. If that is too challenging, they can match it on top of his/her name written on the envelope. This step can be omitted if the student does not need to see his/her name to put together their name puzzle.
  1. The student points to each letter and says its name. If the student doesn’t know the name tell them and have them repeat it. 

3. The student turns his/her envelope around so that he/she can’t see his/her name and then the student puts his/her name puzzle together again without looking at his/her name. 

  1. Again, have the student point to each letter in his/her name. If they don’t know the letter name, tell them and have them repeat it. If the student is able to say all of the letters in order make it more challenging by pointing to them out of order.
  1.  Lastly, the student writes his/her name. Help the student with using an appropriate pencil grasp and letter formation.

Once my students are able to write their name without a copy and they can name all of the letters in their name out of order, students celebrate by taking home their name puzzle. Students are so proud when they are able take their name puzzle home to share with their families.

Name Chart

The name chart is invaluable! In my classroom, we read the name chart daily using it to make new observations and connections. Before creating the name chart, the class learned that everybody’s name starts with a letter that will always stay the same. So, if you have an “A” first in your name you will always have an “A” first in your name. We also learned that the first letter is special because it is an uppercase letter. Then one-by-one, in alphabetical order I had students hang his/her name on our chart while we said the first letter and the name, “A, Anna”. For the following day, I prepared a chart version that included all of their names in alphabetical order displayed in an easy to see location in our room. I like to make the first letter stand out with a bright color.

Shared Reading

During the first few weeks of school, we created shared reading materials that included the students’ names. These materials became “readable” items that students could use during independent reading time.

Poetry notebook

Any shared reading poems that we read are glued into the students’ poetry notebooks once students know the poem well. Here are some of my favorite name poems/chants:

  • Happy Birthday
  • Everybody Has a Name
  • Who Stole the Cookie From the Cookie Jar
  • Where is (child’s name)? (tune: Are you Sleeping?)

Books

We create our books through shared or interactive writing on large chart paper. We read the shared/interactive writing pieces over several days before I make smaller copies for each student to keep in his/her independent reading bag. Here some of the titles of the books we have made so far as well as an example of the pattern that is on each page:

  • Our Kindergarten Class – “Autumn is in our class.”
  • Our Class ABC book – “A is for Autumn.” * for the letters that don’t have a student name I use the picture that is from our classroom alphabet linking chart.
  • About our Friends – “Autumn is friendly
  • We like… – “Autumn likes to paint.”
  • Counting Letters – “Autumn has 6 letters in her name.”

Secret Student

We use the “Secret Student” activity during morning meeting to help us learn each others’ names. I tell the students that I have a “secret student” in my envelope and that I am going to share a clue. After I share the first letter of the secret student’s name, students discuss with their partner who they think it might be. Then I ask for volunteers to share who it might be and why they think it is that student. If I have multiple students who start with the same letter the students will get another clue. I show them the next letter in the student’s name. After we find out who the secret student is, that student comes to the front of the room. The students ask the secret student questions so that they can learn more about their classmate.

There are many more fun and motivating activities that you can use to help your students learn letters through their names as well as their friends’ names. Teaching letters in this way puts it into a meaningful context for our students which makes letters easier to remember. I am excited to continue using names as an avenue for letter learning. Please share any name activities that you do in your classroom in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you!

2 thoughts on “Letter Learning Through a Child’s Name

  1. Tammy Martinez

    I let the kids decorate their names using little stickers. I also have them cut out the letters of their names on sentence strips.

    Like

    1. Tammy,
      Thank you for contributing more suggestions for having students work with their names. Names are such a powerful avenue for helping students learn letters. Also, thank you for visiting our blog!
      ~Rhonda

      Like

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