Teacher’s File Drawer: Name Research Project

“What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Shakespeare, from “Romeo and Juliet” (II,ii,1-2)

In honor of International Celebrate Your Name Week, I want to share my favorite research project–a Name Research Paper.

The Name Research Paper

Every person has a name—some two, three, or even four names.  And all names have some kind of story behind it.  What I asked the students to do was research their own name. It could be their first name, middle name or both.

Questions to consider were:

  • How did their parents choose their names?  Why?
  • What traditions were in their families for choosing names?
  • Why did their parents decide to spell their names the way they do?
  • What does their name mean?
  • What is their names’ histories—in their family? In the world?
  • Are there other versions of their names?  Where do they come from? What do they mean?

Page 2 of the assignment sheet provided a section for parents’ signatures, so that my students parents would know what we were working on and what was required.

Name Research Sources

The students were required to interview a family member as one of their resources for the project. Other resources can include baby name books and baby name websites, and if they were named after a fictional character or famous person, research into the story of that individual. At least 5 different types of sources should be used.

I used these criteria when scoring for the number of sources used:

  • 1 Source—0% of points possible
  • 2 Sources—35% of points possible
  • 3 Sources—70% of points possible
  • 4 Sources—85% of points possible
  • 5 Sources or more—100% of points possible and higher


Students were expected to use note cards and part of their final scores were determined by how many notes they took. For full credit they needed at least 25 note cards.

One day of the project started with a lesson on how to create note cards.Here is an example of a source card:

Here is an example of a note card:

I used these criteria when scoring for notecards:

  • None-5 Cards—0% of points possible
  • 6-10 Cards—50% of points possible
  • 10-11 Cards—60% of points possible
  • 12-13 Cards—65% of points possible
  • 14-17 Cards—70% of points possible
  • 19-21 Cards—80% of points possible
  • 22-24 Cards—90% of points possible
  • 25 Cards and up—100% of points possible and higher

Remainder of Name Research Paper Project

When it came  time to write the paper, I required my students to use the complete writing process: pre-write, rough draft, revise and edit to MLA format for citations, participate in peer evaluation, do a final revision and edit, and produce a final copy complete with bibliography.

Scoring the Name Research Paper

This is the scoring page for the name research papers:

At the time I was teaching this lesson, my state, Oregon, was using their own writing scoring guide whose traits you see listed in the middle section. You can easily adapt this section to include your own writing scoring guide.

At the bottom, you see writing reflection questions the students were required to fill out and turn in with their research papers. I found using reflection questions at the end of long projects like this helped the students cement into memory what they learned while working on the project.

Why Did I Love This Project?

Because the paper is all about something that relates to them personally, I found it was easier to generate student buy-in.

It was a good assignment for practicing research skills and, because of the personal aspect, for establishing the student’s unique writing voices.

I usually did this near the beginning of the school year, and it provided both me and the students’ a good opportunity to get acquainted, and nearly all the papers were enjoyable to read.

Your Turn

What kinds of assignments do you like to use to help you get acquainted with your students? What topics have you found to be useful for generating student enthusiasm?


Teacher’s File Drawer: My Favorite December Writing Assignment~Holiday Letters

fav-holiday-assOne of my favorite December writing assignments was the writing of holiday letters. You know the newsy kinds of letters we all get from friends and family.

With this assignment, while the writing process, as with all writing assignments, is practiced, the thing I loved about this project was the opportunity it gave me to talk to my students about voice and audience, and the opportunity it provided them to express their individuality.

Voice & Audience

So often, students are required to write with an authoritative, scholarly voice. More frequently than not, their audience is usually the teacher. In writing the holiday letter, however, their objective is to sound like themselves talking to family or friends, and the intended audience is, indeed, family and friends.

More Than a Writing Assignment

In addition to writing the letter, I required students to craft their own holiday “stationary.” Students were scored for their use of graphics/images, use of color, and care and effort in preparation. The letters that get turned in are delightful, unique, and a pleasure to read.

Scoring Criteria

  • Prewrite (5 pts.)
  • Rough Draft (5 pts.)
  • Evidence of Revision and Editing (5 pts.)
  • Peer Evaluation (5 pts.)
  • Final Copy: Graphics/Images (5 pts.)
  • Final Copy: Use of Color (5 pts.)
  • Final Copy: Care and Effort (5 pts.)
  • Ideas and Content (5 pts.)
  • Organization (5 pts.)
  • Voice (10 pts.)
  • Word Choice (5 pts.)
  • Sentence Fluency (5 pts.)
  • Conventions (5 pts.)

Try it. You’ll like it. 

Give this assignment a try with your Language Arts class. I guarantee you will be delighted with the final produce.

P.S.Writers: What kind of holiday letter might your character write?

P.S.S.Teachers: You could also use this as book report project. What king of holiday letter might the main character in the book write?

*Image Background Depositphotos_14910921