Friday, May 22, 2009

Topic: Names.

10-second review: The author uses names to introduce the process of doing research.

Title: “The Challenge of Place-name Study.” A W Read. Elementary English (April 1971), 235-236. Elementary English was re-named Language Arts as its elementary journal by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Comment: I used two activities to engage students in research with names.

In the first, we began with a question: Why are American place names given their names? I distributed quarters of maps of the United States. Students first looked over the place names in their quarter-map. Next they collected names that interested them from the map. Next, they categorized the place names according to origin—people’s family names, the Bible, geographic description, American Indian, etc. Finally, they drew conclusions about the origins of place names in the United States. When names were especially interesting, they might write to the town asking for information about the name’s origin. Finally, they compiled a book of some of the most common reasons for naming places, the most interesting, the most puzzling, the longest, the shortest, etc.

A second techniques concerned students’ first names. Students asked their parents why they were named as they were. We would gather a list of reasons for first name—popular name of the time, celebrities, family name, etc. (One student was named “Glorita.” Her parents could not agree on a name between “Gloria” and “Rita,” so they combined the two names as a compromise.) Finally, we classified the names according to the reasons and wrote a class book on the subject of why parents name their children.

The purpose of these two activities concerning names? Introduction to Research. Begin with a question, gather the information, classify it, draw conclusions or generalizations, and write about it. RayS.

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