Friday, March 7, 2008

The Name Jar

Title: The Name Jar

Author: Yangsook Choi

Summary: In this book a young girl, Unhei, comes to America with her family and must leave behind her life and grandmother in Korea. One thing that she brings with her is a wooden stamp with Korean characters on it that spell out her name, Unhei. This is something that Unhei cherishes because it reminds her of her grandmother and Korea.

When she arrives in America she begins school right away. When she tells children on the bus her name they can not pronounce it, make fun of it, and wonder why it is so different. Due to this experience Unhei tells her class that she does not have a name and needs to pick one out. From there her classmates decide to create a name jar which she can use as help in picking out a name. They decide they will all write names on pieces of paper and Unhei can choose the one she likes best as her new name. During this time she meets a young boy who befriends her and learns her Korean name.

The following day the name jar goes missing and after searching for it Unhei tells her classmates she is ready to introduce herself. She explains to the class that her name is Unhei and also helps her classmates pronounce her name correctly. After this the young boy admits that he stole the name jar so that Unhei would pick her Korean name over the other names. The boy shows her that he has a character stamp too. This stamp says friend. His acts and hers lead to her class learning how to accept others and take part in social justice.

Reflections: I liked this book because it is very versatile and could be used within many grades. It is simple enough to be read to first graders but could also be used in older grades. It is a short book but it presents an important lesson which is that acceptance is something that you have to have for your self and others. It could be used for a read aloud and then be branched off into conversations of different levels of intensity regarding the age of students. Regardless of the conversation and the material that is included along with the story, the book will create a powerful reaction on the part of students as they learn about Unhei’s journey to accept herself and have others accept her as well.

How would I use the book/curricular units: As mentioned above, this book could be used for students as young as first graders and span in use to third and fourth grade classrooms. I would use it in the beginning of the school year during the first week of class. It could be read aloud to students and then lead into a conversation about acceptance. Students could talk about how they would define acceptance and how it is shown in the book. The book could also be used in literacy lessons in which students can write about their names and what they think someone would have to do to show acceptance towards it. The students could read these responses and create a list of acts that show acceptance from all their ideas. The teacher can chart these ideas and then post them in the class as goals that all students should follow. The book could also be used in a cause and effect lesson. After reading the book, students could point out causes in the book and then figure out the effects. When this is complete then other events could be used as examples and students could continue work on cause and effects.

Domains of Social Justice:

1. Domain of self love and acceptance:

Students will lean about how Unhei comes to find acceptance of herself and her name. They will get to go on her journey and see the importance of loving oneself and appreciating others. Even though Unhei had to leave Korea and go to a school where people were not the same as her, she found out that it is important to be proud of who she is. This will enable students to see how important it is for them to appreciate and care about who they are.

2. Respect for Others:

In this book students get to see examples of how people do respect others and ways that they do not. During Unhei’s first bus ride to her new school, her peers show examples of how people do not respect others. However, later the students are introduced to the young boy who gets to know Unhei. He wants to know about her Korean name and all about her culture. His acceptance of who she is and her culture spreads through out the classroom when she tells her classmates her Korean name.

3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice:

In this book students are introduced to the harm that comes from not accepting others and how it is an issue of social justice. Our name is a part of our culture, and our cultures should be accepted by all. If this is not the case people are often left feeling bad about themselves and do things such as denying their name such as Unhei did.

4. Social Movements and Social Change:

While reading this book, students learn about how to appreciate others and how to create this acceptance in others. They learn about how the young boy accepts and appreciates Unhei and her culture and then see how he helps others do this as well. By taking away the name jar, the young boy pushes for social movement by helping Unhei introduce herself and educate her classmates about who she was and about her culture. Students are able to see the positive results of this and also see how they can do this their selves.

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