Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What's in a Name?

The name Gabriella means
"strong person of God."
Did you know that the name Theodore means "gift from god?" Or that Ashley means "ash tree clearing?" How 'bout this one: Jessica, which means "to behold," was first used in 1596 in Shakespeare's play 'The Merchant of Venice'.

Maybe we are all a little bit narcissistic (the name Narcy derives from the mythological figure Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection). Whatever the reason, my students love to learn about the origin of their names. Which makes the website Behind the Name my all time favorite way to introduce topics like etymology, roots, stems, and word origins. Behind the Name "is a website for learning about all aspects of given names from all cultures and periods. Names from mythology and fiction are also eligible. There are currently 17825 names in the database."

Students love it because it draws on their innate interest in their own origins. I love it because it focuses their attention and draws on their prior knowledge and piques their interest in the upcoming topic; in lesson planning this is called the Anticipatory Set.) I like to use the website before an introductory lesson on etymology or a mnemonic unit on Greek or Latin stems. It can also be used to fill up small pockets of time when a lesson ends a little sooner than anticipated.

Materials Required
A computer connected to the internet and projected to the screen in front of the class.

How to do it:
Just browse to the Behind the Name web site. Ask the students, "Have you ever wondered what your name means? Ashley, do you know what your name means? Eric, what about you? Well you're about to find out." Then type in one of their names in the field provided, and click SEARCH.

The Behind the Name site. The Search field is circled in red.