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March 05, 2009

"She got a name?!"

March appears to be the month of new students!  This week we were happy to welcome Tamara, a recently-turned-three year-old, into our classroom community.  My students were eager to show Tamara around and were fascinated by the fact that Tamara had replaced Ruby as our "newest friend." 
On Tamara's second day of school, she walked in to find her name and picture on a myriad of belongings around our classroom -- her writing box (for markers, pencils, and pens), her "situpon" (to cushion the carpet), her journal, her center nametag, her small group nametag, her cubby, her bathroom clip (a way to keep track of who has used the bathroom before naptime), and more.  Tamara was beyond excited and kept bounding from place to place, pointing to her picture, and saying "Tamara, Tamara, Tamara!"  Helping her associate her picture with her printed name is one of the first literacy skills she will learn in school, and she is clearly excited to get started! 
Today, I took Tamara's excitement and translated it into a small group activity about sequencing letters in your name.  For each child, I wrote the letters in his/her name on small squares, and put the squares in an envelope labled with their name.  The ultimate goal of the lesson was to help the children learn to spell their names without requiring them to rely on fine motor skills and write the letters legibly.  But for Jose, I think the most valuable part of the lesson came even before he saw his own name envelope.  We were flipping through the stack of envelopes reading everybody's name, and we came to Tamara's name.  Nobody in our class has a name that starts with "T," and my students were stumped about what this new word could say.  I told my students that it was Tamara's name, and Jose looked at me in disbelief; "She got a name?!" he exclaimed.  The fact that Jose had been talking to Tamara and using her name for that past day and a half indicated that he knew who she was, and that she was called "Tamara," but he hadn't made the connection that the spoken word "Tamara" could be written down and also represent her name.  This short exchanged reinforced -- in a very exciting way -- the idea that all spoken words can be written and all written words can be spoken, which is a critical pre-k literacy skill.


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