Saturday, January 6, 2018

Name Poems

Paige is new like a warm, blueberry bagel
Paige moves like a daisy growing
Paige sounds like a hummingbird
Paige is yellow like a tumbleweed
Paige means beautiful drawings

Paige, Kindergarten

Names are something most people are pretty passionate and opinionated about. If you've ever named a child, or even a pet for that matter with someone else, you realize really quickly that certain names trigger strong emotions. This is exactly why name poems are fun to write with students. It's fun to name things, and to find out the meaning of our own names.

One of the poems I like to have my students write each year is a name poem. We first start out talking about why our parents gave us our names. Some students don't know why their parents chose their name. Others are named for their mother's best friend, a grandparent, a sibling who passed, a special moment in their parent's lives, or just because their name sounded pleasing to both parents, and they could agree on it. After naming my own children, I have come to realize that picking a name that both my husband and I could both be happy with was no small feat, and sometimes that is enough. Students usually have lots of opinions about their names. Some love their name because it is unique. While others dislike their name because it has a strange spelling, or people can never pronounce it. Some, like I did when I was little, feel their name is too popular. Others enjoy having a name that honors someone in their family.

Regardless of their feelings about their names, I tell the students that like everything we do in poetry we are going to look at our names in a different way. First, I tell students to give their name an age. I ask them to think of their name and to decide if it is an old name, or a new name. This answer doesn't need to have anything to do with how long their name has been used historically. I tell students that my name, Sara, is an old name because it comes from the bible, however that doesn't mean I have to think of it that way. I can think of it any way I like because it is my name. There isn't a wrong answer for this. I could say that Sara is new like a bright, copper penny, or it is old like the dusty pages of a worn out book.

Name Poem Activity (Click here for free Name Poem Activity)

Next, we imagine that if our names could move how they would move. For example, Ezra moves like a lightning bolt, or Sara scampers like an arctic hare through the snow. I usually try to demonstrate how several names would move for the students. If my theatrics don't inspire an idea, they usually give my students, or a teacher passing by in the hall something to laugh at.


Conner reminds me of ancient empires, mighty and strong
Conner is old like crumbling castles, or remains of once mighty cities
Conner moves quickly like a hare
Conner is the green of growing plants
Conner feels like a solid stone wall, protecting a city
Conner looks like a ship approaching a harbor, coming from the endless distance of the blue sea
Conner means ponderer, a thinker who plays and thinks of strategies carefully

Conner means the one who is much wanted, always a friend waiting

Conner, 6th grade

Then, I ask students to imagine how their name would sound if it had a voice. Would it boom like a foghorn, or drip drop like an icicle melting? What would the voice of someone with their name sound like? What color would their name be? Yellow like buttery sponge cake, or prickly pear pink? Some years I have students give their names a number, and an explanation of why it would be that particular number. A name might be the number 13 because it is an unlucky name, or the number 4 because it is the number of people in their family. Other years, students will use the five senses to describe their names, or use their name in a line of alliteration. Sara stares at sparkly stars.


Cherish means to hold dear everyone
Cherish reminds me of a forest casting green and blue shadows on the forest floor
Cherish is old like the sky and the mountains
Cherish moves like the pond in a vast area, slightly moving
Cherish is white like freshly made snow
Cherish is a new viper zooming around town
Cherish’s voice is like a whisper barely being heard

6th grade

Finally, I always look up each student's name and find the meaning of their names, and the language their name comes from. Students love seeing what their name means, and what everyone elses' name means. To find their names' meanings I just look at, or a baby name website. Sometimes I have to look up a variant of the name to find its meaning, but I can usually find something for each student. I save the name meaning sheet until the end of the lesson because it causes considerable excitement and chaos. Students often include their name meaning at the end of their poems. When students don't like what their names means, I encourage them to invent their own name meaning. For instance, I prefer my name, Sara, meaning book lover versus it's real meaning which is God's princess.

Poetry is the perfect vehicle for thinking about our names in different ways. Whenever we think of a name it sparks images, and the personality of a person we've known who carries that name. Names remind us of people we want to remember, and perhaps people we'd rather forget. Names have layers of depth beyond just the way they look on paper, or they sound to the ear. They have a meaning and a life of their own.


Emma is as young as a little blue ocean wave waving around.
Emma is like a boring school day moving to the weekend.
Emma is as Mint green as mint ice cream on a hot sunny day.
Emma is the sound of wind blowing on a cold autumn day,
Emma is the smell of a freshly baked apple pie coming out of the oven,
Emma is the sight of a colorful poem waving around in the wind

Emma, 3rd grade


  1. Two things I love about this activity:
    1) It's personalized - students can instantly find meaning with their own names!
    2) It really deals with identity and helps students feel comfortable as themselves - so important!

    1. Thanks for your feedback. Names are such a big part of our identities.I love seeing how every student feels and relates to his/her name.


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