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Your Name Is A Song: Getting to Know Your Students

“Your Name Is a Song” by Jamilah Thomkins-Bigelow is such a beautiful story that celebrates the beauty behind our names. A little girl does not want to return to school after feeling frustrated by her name being mispronounced. Her mother teaches her about the musicality and the history of her name, finding beauty in the pronunciation. She is empowered to return to school and share this with her class.

It is a great story that reminds us about how important it is to get to know student's names. Learning student's names or nicknames helps to build a community where they feel welcome in your classroom. It helps students feel comfortable from the second they come into your classroom.

Creating a Sense of Belonging

We know that students love to see their name in print.They love seeing their name in a math problem and love to hear it in the read-aloud book. They let it be known when their name is found, that is for sure!

So when you are setting for the beginning of the year or to welcoming a new student to your classroom, student names should be something that you should consider.

Students will feel welcomed and a part of your classroom when they feel included and putting their names on a locker, cubby, desk, display, mailbox, etc. It makes them feel like they belong.

Five places around the room will help your students feel a sense of community! Isn't that amazing that something so simple can have such a big impact right from the beginning?

It is important to consider is that some students may not go by their full name. They may choose to be called something else. In creating an open classroom community, you want to use the name they want to be called. Make it clear, you don't want to call them by a nickname that only mom calls them…but what their friends and family call them every day!

When you talk with students about what they like to be called, they may give you an alternative name…which may mean changing their nameplate or locker tag; it can be as simple as changing “Jennifer” to “Jen.” (Which I would've loved when I was little, by the way, lol!)

This may take you a little extra time, but think of the impact it will have on the student. They will know you care enough to listen to them and their request.

This small thing will build trust so they know they may come to you.

Your Name Is a Song

So in the first days or weeks of school, take some time to get to know your students. “Your Name Is a Song” is a wonderful book to read about how names are special and we should be proud of our names.

  1. Students can create a design to decorate their name. You can use this a desk or locker tag or create a display with student names.

2. Students can create a melody for their name by stretching the syllables.

3. Students can practice how to introduce themselves. Most importantly, they can ask if they're unsure of how to pronounce someone's name.

4. Students can think of strong adjectives to describe themselves and create acrostic poems with their names.

5. Students can create symbols to represent themselves and describe their symbols.

Class Discussions:

“Your Name Is a Song” lends itself to a lot of great classroom discussions. Many students can connect to the character or empathize with her. And while you get to know your students, reading aloud is a great way to connect with each other.

The story of Kora-Jalimuso is a perfect starting point for some important discussions with students:

  • the importance of a name
  • the beauty or history behind our names
  • celebrating cultures and diversity
  • taking pride in your identity
  • practicing self love and self worth
  • accepting each other's differences

“Your Name Is a Song” will quickly find a special place in your heart as a favorite read-aloud. It is such a beautiful story, I hope you and your students love it!

You can grab a guide for using this book in your classroom here:

You can find more of my favorite beginning of the year read-aloud books HERE.

And read more about why I think reading aloud is so important HERE.

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You can find the book “Your Name Is a Song” HERE. This is an affiliate link.

Happy Reading!

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