2.3: What’s in a name?

Lesson overview

Theme:Developing identity and self-esteem
Age Group:Year 2
Learning Area:English

Content descriptor

Students listen to, and contribute to, conversations and discussions to share information and ideas.

Teachers notes

  1. This activity may be conducted over several sessions.
  2. Different cultures have different naming systems. Students may need to clarify the meaning and/or English translation of their name with family members.
  3. Parents or community members from diverse cultural backgrounds may be invited to talk about the naming systems and the meanings of names in their own culture.
  4. Some parents name their child because they like the sound of it, it matches well with the family name, it’s popular at the time or it’s unique at the time. Some names may be unique and as such have no commonly accepted meanings. Name meanings, while interesting, are not necessarily a consideration when deciding upon a child’s name.
  5. As a variation to this activity, students may be asked to create their own name meanings.


Name books and/or websites, large sheets of paper and coloured pencils, textas or paints


  1. Introduce the concept of the meaning of names explaining that most names have historical meanings based on:
    1. a trade or profession
    2. physical appearance
    3. place or time of birth
    4. personality trait or characteristic
    5. nationality/ethnic origin
    6. relationship to another person or thing.
  2. Use the handout: What’s in a name [DOC] as a group handout or overhead transparency to stimulate discussion.
  3. Ask students to research the meaning of their own (first or family) name. This research may involve discussion with family members, internet searches or library research. Ask students to also note the significance of their names e.g. Were they named after someone else such as another family member or prominent figure or after a significant day or event?
  4. When completed, collate and discuss the findings with the class comparing the various meanings and their significance. Ask the students to create and decorate artwork using their own name and meaning or a class poster of names and meanings which may be displayed.