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August 20, 2010 A Chrysanthemum by Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet By Allie Magnuson
Grades PreK–K

    A child's name is their first gift, the first thing that gives them an identity. It's placed on hospital cards. It's made official on a birth certificate. It's lovingly handwritten in baby books. It might even be announced in the newspaper. A name says "I am a specific and unique individual."

    Photo Â© Juliana Coutinho

    The beginning of the kindergarten school year is the best time to talk to children about names. This teaches self-awareness and self-esteem, as well as interpersonal and social skills. 

    Names in Children's Books


    There are many books you can read that will help get you started on the topic; for instance, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, in which a little mouse loves her flower name until she starts kindergarten and the other kids make fun of it. Her parents can no longer reassure her as they once did, but when the school's popular music teacher reveals that her name is Delphinium and that she is going to name her baby after Chrysanthemum, it makes everyone realize that names are special. See Chrysanthemum extension activities and the Chrysanthemum discussion guide.


    In the book Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate, the reader gets to know all the children in Miss Bindergarten's class by name. You could point out how it is easier to relate to characters whose names you know.

    I've also made a list of books about names that you might like.

    There Is Only One of You in All Time

    You can also share with your students that there are many things besides names that make them who they are, different from everyone else in the world. These include their:

    • Face
    • Hair
    • Fingerprints
    • Handwriting
    • Voice
    • DNA

    In addition, their nervous systems (the inside of their bodies) are unique, and because they experience the world through their five bodily senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching â€” and in addition to those, by thinking â€” their experiences of the world are also unique. Their entire set of experiences at any time gives them a unique point of view!

    You might want to read some books about the five senses so your students understand them better. Here's an extensive list of books about the five senses to choose from.

    To wrap it all up, you can combine the topics of names and the five senses in an activity that is fun — and different â€” for all!


    Experiencing Your Name in All Five Senses*



    "I love my name, but sometimes I have to shorten it!"

    *This activity is best done in small groups and with adult assistance.

    Materials You Will Need:

    Clear glue (bottles and sticks)
    Black felt-tip marker
    Pipe cleaners (many colors or just one)
    Red and blue crayons
    3-D glasses (1 per child, or 1 for the whole class)
    Jell-O gelatin mix
    Froot Loops
    Novelty voice recorders (1 per child)


    Get creative with whatever's in your supply closet!

    Preliminary Work:

    Using a black felt-tip marker, write each child's name on a separate piece of tagboard. Write the first letter in uppercase, and the rest in lowercase.  

    Record yourself saying each child's name on a separate voice recorder.  Don't forget to label them somehow so you'll know whose is whose.

    Put all the materials together.



    Step 1:

    Show your students how to straighten, bend, or cut the pipe cleaners into the shapes of the letters in their names and then glue them onto the tagboard. Glue sticks are easier for this than bottled glue. Tell them to press, hold, and count to their age to make the pipe cleaners stick. Instruct them to feel the material with their fingers and to tell you which one of the five senses they are using.  (TOUCHING)

    19457_296626983676_55894153676_4767842_2473731_n DSC00596

    "Ooh, it feels fuzzy!"

    Alternative Materials

    sandpaper, puffy paint, embossing powder, glazes, craft buttons, ribbons, pom-poms, seeds, macaroni, beans, rice, beads, felt, velvet, fibers, leather, tinfoil, burlap, cotton balls, leaves, Play-Doh or clay, putty, feathers, fur, mosaic tiles, wax, cork, foam, styrofoam, sand, fuzzy stickers, decorative-edge scissors

    Step 2:

    Have your students color two thick circles around their names, the first one red and the second one blue. (The blue must be directly to the left of the red to produce the 3-D effects.) When everyone is done, have them put on the 3-D glasses to see the letters pop out at them! Ask them which of the five senses they are using now.  (SEEING)

    19457_296624098676_55894153676_4767832_4540246_n DSC00598 

    "Oh, look, I see my name popping out at me!"

    Alternative Materials

    any color crayons, paint, stains, markers, colored pencils, pastels, colored chalk, gel pens, glitter, sparkles, sequins, confetti, rhinestones, stickers and decals, glow-in-the-dark shapes or stickers, light-ups and fiber optics, rubber stamps, image transfers, stencils, rubbing plates, shredded paper, tracing paper, pop-ups and 3-D foam squares, sun catchers and prisms, lenses and magnifying glasses, kaleidoscopes, eyedroppers, battery-operated candles, springs 

    Step 3:

    Using a glue stick, show the group how to spread a thin layer of glue in the background of the picture, and then how to sprinkle Jell-O mix on top. What sense are they experiencing now? (SMELLING)

    19457_296624098676_55894153676_4767832_4540246_n (2) DSC00607 

    "Mmm, I could smell this all day!"

    Alternative Materials

    Kool-Aid, cinnamon, mint, vanilla, nutmeg, ginger, clover, aloe, chamomile, menthol, cocoa, coffee, tea, dried fruit, grass, flowers, potpourri, pine needles, cedar, perfume or cologne, oils, air fresheners, candles, baby powder, soap, bubble bath, laundry detergent, fabric softener, scented markers, scratch-and-sniff stickers

    Step 4:

    Using a glue bottle, show how to put a small circle of glue directly on the back of each Froot Loop and then press the Froot Loops down in a line to make a border around their pictures. They can be placed in a pattern or just randomly, whatever you prefer. Don't forget to leave a space for the voice recorders. As your students are working, give them handfuls of the cereal to eat. When they are eating, what sense are they using? (TASTING)

    19457_296624098676_55894153676_4767832_4540246_n (3) DSC00613 

    "Yummy, I love Froot Loops!"

    Alternative Materials

    any kind of cereal, Life Savers, M&M's, candy buttons, candy canes, peppermint or butterscotch drops, lip balm, bubble gum, sugar, brown sugar, cookies, crackers, popcorn, marshmallows, nuts (make sure there are no nut allergies!), raisins, pretzel sticks, chocolate chips, licorice sticks, Pop Rocks

    Step 5:

    Finally, have each child glue their buttons on and then press to hear their names. This will delight them! What sense are they using to listen? (HEARING)

    19457_296626983676_55894153676_4767842_2473731_n (2)_edit DSC00614 

    "When I hear the sound of my name, my ears perk up!"

    Alternative Materials

    bells, chimes, wind-up musical movements, whistles, castanets, drumsticks, triangles, shakers, noisemakers, party horns, handheld horns, rattles, maracas, squeakers, bubble wrap, clocks, battery-operated radios, switches, timers, coins, zippers, chains

    Places to Get Materials

    For basic arts and crafts supplies, try Create for LessDick BlickHobby LobbyNational Artcraft, and Michael's. Some of the more specialized items listed here can be found at Flashing Blinky LightsScent It, and ShopWiki (for wholesale sound modules).

    Do you have a good project idea that incorporates names and/or book themes? Let me know in the comments.

    Have a sensational weekend!



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