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Lesson Plan

What's in a Name? Teaching Concepts of Letter and Word

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What's in a Name? Teaching Concepts of Letter and Word

Grade K
Lesson Plan Type Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time 6-12 minutes per session
Lesson Author

Devon Hamner

Devon Hamner

Grand Island, Nebraska


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



This recurring activity uses students' names to help young students come to understand the concepts of letters and words. Each day, students gather as the helper of the day is selected. The teacher reveals the first letter of the name, having students whose name start with that letter stand. More letters are revealed and students sit down as their name is ruled out. Once the helper is selected, students read the helper's name, count the letters in the name, clap the syllables, spell the name aloud, add the name to the word wall, and make observations about it. Using magnetic letters, students can create words that rhyme with the helper's name. Many additional ideas for playing with the letters of students' names are also presented here.

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Letter and Word Concepts Rubric: Use this rubric to assess emerging readers' reading skills development.

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Using students' names can be a powerful tool for literacy development in the early elementary classroom. In her book Joyful Learning, Bobbi Fisher gives a number of reasons for using a child's name to teach literacy skills, including drawing the class together as a community, getting children to personally engage with the text, and demonstrating grapho-phonic cues with the familiar text. Fisher also states that "if they can recognize and write their own names, they think of themselves as readers and writers." (61)

Bell and Jarvis also share wonderful results from using names and environmental print to give kindergarten students hooks for learning letters and sounds. In their article "Letting Go of 'Letter of the Week,'" they write: "I wanted the children to relate letters and words in books to letters and words they already knew; of course the most meaningful words to them were their names." (13)

Further Reading

Bell, Donna, and Donna Jarvis. "Letting Go of 'Letter of the Week.'" Primary Voices 11.2 (October 2002): 10-24.

Read more about this resource


Fisher, Bobbi. 1991. Joyful Learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

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