For many kindergarten students, being able to read and write their own name is a BIG step towards independence. All of a sudden, they are no longer dependent on the teacher, who usually labels their picture, but can write their name by themselves. And thanks to labelling, they can find their own things without help!
From my experience as a teacher, I can see that it definitely fills the students with pride when they can point out their names on the shoe rack, art drawer or cupboard. ‘I can find my own name.’ or ‘I can write my own name!’ Wow, that’s a great feeling of success, isn’t it? Only a few letters but their meaning is huge!
Reading should be said with caution in this context. It is rather a pattern recognition, which assigns the written letters to the name. Or the stringing together of known letters. Reading here does not mean to decode a random word. But we will get there…
Also writing in this context is mostly still rather a drawing of single letters and not what we as adults would understand by writing. For simplicity I use the terms here regardless because even drawing can be considered as an early expression of writing skills.
Reading comes before writing, but why? Not because it’s more important or you can’t start writing until you can read (It is often a parallel process anyway). However, as already indicated, reading names is only partly about being able to read. That means that also a child without letter knowledge can recognize its name. Quite simply by recognizing the sequence of the characters.
Children learn that different patterns have different meanings long before they learn the first characters. And as long as the characters are not yet characters for them, they are just symbols and signs like any other stroke, arrow or circle.
There are many different, exciting and fun ways to practice reading and writing your own name. In this article, I would like to share two examples that we did in K1.
- Soup of Names!
Does the title make you hungry? It is not a real soup and the ingredients are only letters but playing this game was a lot of fun! In this activity, us teachers prepared a large poster on which the names of all students were written several times in bright colours and wildly mixed. A soup full of names! Equipped with pens, the students had to find their own names and circle them. At the end, we counted together how many times each name appeared and was circled. It’s a good exercise where students can also help each other to find (and recognize) the names of their classmates!
- Name Rockets!
Ready for takeoff? To the moon! In order to get there, however, we first need to build a rocket. For this exercise in K1, the students received individual ‘rocket blocks’ (sticky notes) with letters. One sticker per letter. For instance, if the name consisted of five letters, the respective student received five stickers with the corresponding letters. But wait! The letters had to be put in the right order. And not only that: in order for the rocket to fly, the letters must also be stuck the right way round (legibly). Sounds complicated? K1 did a great job! With a little guidance from the teacher, all the students successfully completed their rocket and together we counted the letter blocks from each student. Everybody received a label saying ‘Blast off! My name is ___rocket blocks long’ so the teacher could write down the number of letters. Connecting the number of letters in a name with something imaginative and visual like a rocket block or train carriage supports the memorization of the name length.
There are countless other fun ways for kids to practice their own name recognition and supports their independence especially in the classroom.