In this activity, students share the name they will go by in class and any history or story the name has for them. They might share the meaning of their name, who they were named for, why their parents gave them that name, or why they chose the name for themselves.
This activity is best used as an icebreaker for the first or second day of class.
Some students may experience unease about their names, particularly if the name is hard to pronounce or if the student chose the name for themselves to correspond with their gender. Make sure the students know to share the name they wish to go by in class (rather than the name on record) to avoid making students feel pressured to share names they are uncomfortable with. Leave the prompts broad and tell students that they don’t need to answer all of the prompts to give them more freedom to disclose only what they are comfortable sharing with the class.
Name Story Activity
This icebreaker is designed not only to help students learn one another’s names, but to give students a sense of the variety of cultures, identities, and histories that make up their learning environment. You may choose to have students focus on only their first name or both their first and last. Give broad prompts so students can feel free to disclose or not any personal details about their names. Prompts students can choose from might include:
- Who are you named after and why?
- Where does your name originate from?
- Who named you? Who chose the spelling of your name?
- Does your name hold any special meaning for you or your family?
- Do you have any memories or stories about your name?
- Do you like your name? Why or why not
- If it is a name you chose for yourself, why did you choose this name in particular?
Give the students some time to jot down some thoughts about their name story, and then have them introduce themselves to the class and share their name story. Alternatively, you can have them share their name story with a partner and have their partner introduce them to the class.
Resource hosted by LSA Inclusive Teaching Initiative, University of Michigan (http://sites.lsa.umich.edu/inclusive-teaching/).