Social Justice Stories

building compassion, tolerance, and responsible citizenship through social justice narratives

What Does Your Name Say About You

Activity Overview


  • To have students reflect upon the meaning of their names and connect that with their understanding of both their personal and group identity

Materials Required

  • Chart paper/board, paper, pens

  • My Name worksheet (Handout #1)

  • Hiding Edith excerpt (Handout #2)

  • Discussion Questions (Teacher Resource #1)

Activity Details

  1. Initiate discussion by sharing thoughts related to your own name; how your parents decided upon your name, any religious, family, or ethnic naming customs in your family, what you like/dislike or any humorous anecdotes about your name. Invite students to share anything about their own names.

  2. Ask students to think about how their names are related to their identity. For example, how does their name represent them? How is it connected with their own personal and family history? What associations does their name hold?

  3. Hand out the My Name worksheet (Handout #1) and give students 10-15 minutes to complete. It is also a good idea to allow students to take this assignment home to ask family members for information and help with completing their name sheet.

  4. Ask students to reflect on the My Name worksheet (Handout #1) and ask them if having a name should be considered a right. Does everyone have the right to a name? Why? How does having a name place us in the world? How does having a name influence who we are and our identity? What does our name say about where we come from?

  5. If you have started a working word wall, ask students to add their names to the wall. Explain that their names are one representation of their identities and, just as their understanding of other concepts on the wall (i.e. racism, sexism, bullying, etc.) are transformed, expanded, and modified with learning, critical reflection, context, and time, their understanding of their identity will be as well. Initially, students only have to include a couple of brief sentences or drawing, etc., beside their name. Students can revisit their names on the wall to change and/or add reflection, thoughts, or associations about their names and identities throughout the year. Remember, you can use any number of ways to represent each concept (i.e. words, pictures, poems, drawings, photos, etc.).

  6. As a class, read the excerpt from Hiding Edith (Handout #2). Explain that the passage is taken from a true story of a Jewish child who lived through the Holocaust. Encourage student reflection on the passage through class discussion using the Discussion Questions provided in Resource #1. These questions can also be used as Journal Writing prompts.

Content Source:
Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers Guide
(Shawntelle Nesbitt)