Each person has a name. Your name is an important part of who you are. For instance, a name can tell you about your family and where you originated. Celebrate Your Name Week, observed in early March, is a fun way to show appreciation for each individual member of your group and to learn more about who they are. You can plan activities around some special days in March that are associated with Celebrate Your Name Week. A few to consider: Namesake Day, Fun Facts About Names Day, Unique Names Day, and Genealogy Day. (You can find more online under holidays and special days.) Here are some simple names-related activities that you can use with your group.
- Take a current photo of each participant (perhaps with women wearing a colorful scarf and men a bold bow tie). Mount the photos and write each group member’s name below the corresponding picture. Include first name, middle initial, and last name. Guess the middle name of each person in the group. Ask: Do you know what your name means? Were you named for anyone, like a relative? Tell us a story about your name.
- Show pictures of participants’ children, and ask them to give the full names and date of birth of each child. Encourage them to talk about how they chose names for their children. Chat about popular baby names in the 1940s and 1950s, when many participants may have become parents for the first time. (Note: You can look at the Social Security Administration Web site for a list of popular baby names by decade.)
- Invite a member of a local genealogical chapter to talk about the meaning and origin of surnames in a family tree. Construct a simple family tree that includes the names of grandparents and great-grandparents. Pass around old photos of participants’ ancestors, and ask them to identify the people in the photo. Talk about naming traditions.
- Reminisce about nicknames in a family, like Princess, Sugar, or Babs. Ask if group members had a nickname and if they gave their own children a pet name. Are nicknames based on a person’s characteristics or personality?
- Write an acrostic poem, using each participant’s first name. The poem should tell the group more about who each person is.
- Play some simple name games with your group, or hold a contest with time limits. Examples: one-or two-syllable names, Bible names, names that can be male or female, boys’ names beginning with the letter ‘g’. Bonus: Think of names that read the same backward or forward – e.g., Anna.
- Invite a guest to demonstrate the art of calligraphy – or hand lettering. Make simple nameplates from stock paper for each participant. Depending on dexterity, your group members might try a few calligraphy strokes.
- Read the following quotation from Juliet in Shakespeare’s play Romeo & Juliet (II, ii, 1-2): “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.” Ask participants if they think names are mere labels. Ask: What is the most important part of a person? Can your name affect your personality? Have you ever changed your name or the spelling of it? Why?
- Tap your feet and sing along to the 1960s tune “The Name Game” by Shirley Ellis. Listen for the seven names used in the song.
- List songs that use names in the title. Examples: “Charlie Brown,” “If You Knew Susie,” “Peggy Sue,” “Barbara Ann,” “Daisy Bell,” “My Bill,” “My Bonnie,” “Oh, Johnny,” “Bill Bailey,” “My Wild Irish Rose.”
- Share some techniques to learn the names of new people. Example: Look the person in the face and slowly say his/her name after being introduced.
- Intergenerational activity: Teach an etiquette lesson on how to make basic introductions, using Emily Post’s Etiquette as a guide. Examples: Introduce a young person to an older person or introduce a man to a woman.
- Discuss the meaning of the idiom “drop a name.” What does it mean? Ask participants to become “namedroppers.” Show a picture of a mid-20th century celebrity, like Bob Hope, and ask your group to name the person. If participants need more help with names, you can have them to match the name with the photograph. Ask group members to name any famous people they have met or seen somewhere in person.
- Try this creative idea: Make rebus riddles for actor or actress names, using pictures in magazines. Example: A picture of a goat + a picture of crystal stemware = Billy Crystal
- Discuss why performers, like movie stars, sometimes use a stage or showbiz name (besides anonymity). List some stage names of famous celebrities. For example, Cary Grant was named Archie Leach by his parents. Ask each participant to take on a stage name for the day.
NAMES TRIVIA QUIZ
- Irish surname that rhymes with jelly. Kelly
- Nicknames of Babe Ruth. “The Babe,” “Great Bambino” and “Sultan of Swat”
- Girls’ names beginning with the letter ‘E’. Emily, Emma, Eve, Eva, Evangeline, Esther (others are possible)
- Pen name of author and humorist Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Mark Twain
- Full name of the 36th U.S. president with the initials LBJ. Lyndon Baines Johnson
- Last word in Johnny Cash’s song titled “A Boy Named…” Sue
- Month named for Roman emperor Julius Caesar. July
- Last name of the famous couple Franklin and Eleanor. Roosevelt
- Nicknames for someone named Robert. Bob, Bobby, Rob
- Middle initial of President Harry Truman. S
“NAMES” written by Sue Hansen. © 2010 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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