In this challenge, students research stories about how they came to have the name they were given and other aspects of their cultural and linguistic background. Introduce the topic by asking several students "Who are you?" Make the point that our names are an important part of telling who we are. Then read aloud the book, Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes. In this story, Chrysanthemum loves her name until she goes to school and encounters other students' hostile reactions to her name. In the end, she realizes her name is perfect. After reading the story, ask students to describe how students in the story reacted to Chrysanthemum's name (e.g., students thought her name was too long). Write their responses on one side of a T-chart. Then, ask students what made her name perfect for her and write their responses on the other side of the chart. Discuss with students what is special about a person's name (e.g., fits the person, may be unique to them, has a family tradition). Ask if anyone knows how his or her name was chosen. After some responses, discuss where they could learn how they received their names (e.g., ask parents or grandparents, look in their baby book).
Prepare a notice to parents/guardians, requesting that they help their child research the choice of the child's name and other stories associated with the child's cultural and linguistic roots. Because the naming ceremony in some Aboriginal cultures is sacred, consult directly with parents/guardians of Aboriginal children to explain and seek their assistance with this activity. For students who may have difficulty researching their own personal story, consult books of names, local elders and other sources to learn of the history of their names and of famous namesakes. When students have completed their research, ask them to share stories about their name and other facts that tell who they are. Ensure that everyone in the class understands the importance of responding positively to others before inviting students to share what is the most special thing about their own personal stories and tell why. You may want to adapt the chart and strategies for Selecting the Best Thing (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.