Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Name Jar

Summary: The Name Jar is a story about Unhei, a girl who has recently arrived to the U.S. from Korea. When she tells the students her name on her bus ride to school, the students tease her about her name. She becomes embarrassed about her name and hesitates to tell her classmates when they ask. Instead, she tells them that she just has not decided on a name yet. Her classmates give her suggestions for names, and she puts them in a jar. She has a difficult time choosing a name that suits her, trying out the different names but never liking the names enough to keep them. Eventually, with the help of a friend, she decides to keep her name because she realizes that she likes her name just the way it is and is proud to share it with the class.

Reflection: What I like about this book is that it teaches students to not just accept but to embrace their own culture. Unhei ultimately keeps her name, not simply because she could not find a better alternative but because she realizes the importance and uniqueness of her name. I also like how students can learn a little more about the Korean culture, as it makes some reference to it.

How I Would Use This Book/Curriculum Units:

This book would help in building a strong and supportive community in the classroom at the beginning of the year. Students can research the origins of their own names and/or their meanings and then share what they have found with the rest of the class. Students will then be able to learn more about each other and become more comfortable with one another. Additionally, students can also do research on their own culture and share this with the class. This will be accompanied by a discussion on differences in culture or otherwise and how being different is a positive thing and how it makes us all unique. This book can also be a part of a math unit on probability, as an introduction or the basis to a word problem. Students can figure out the probability of Unhei drawing one of her classmates’ names if she had decided to go with that strategy of picking a name from a jar.

Domains of Social Justice:

1) Self-Love and Acceptance: Students will learn that they should be proud of their own culture because it is such an important part of who they are.

2) Respect for Others: Students learn about the origin of other students’ names, and they learn about other students’ cultures as well. They do this by listening and keeping an open mind about others’ cultures, thereby showing respect to each other and their cultures.

3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Students will learn about behaviors that may seem harmless but actually have negative cultural implications to them such as making fun of someone else’s ethnic name.

5) Taking Social Action: Students will learn that they should say something if they hear people teasing other people about their name or culture.


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