In Heather Jupiter and Rrita Ibrahimi's kindergarten classroom, students have begun a name study that blends math and literacy. They started by reading two books about names: Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez Neale and Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. As Heather writes, "Both stories celebrate the love and care that goes into giving a name...[and] also explore what it is like to have a long name." Using the stories as inspiration, the class decided to figure out how many letters are in their own names.
Students used unifix cubes to build name sticks, adding one cube for each letter and then labeling the cubes with lettered stickers. "Friends instinctively began to chat and compare the length of their sticks and make comments about the different numbers and lengths of cubes," describes Heather. Rrita worked with each kindergartner individually to record the number of letters in their name on the classroom's name graph. (As students learned, graphs are visual tools that allow you to compare several pieces of information at the same time.) In the coming weeks, students will make another graph that charts the frequency of letters in their names, observe any noticeable patterns and also share the stories behind their names. The study will bend toward literacy as the weeks progress and students turn their classmates' names and their own into easily recognizable sight words.