What's Your Name? (This Year's First 'Virtual' Assignment)

What’s In A Name?

A Rose By Any Other NameIn Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, Juliet laments that she cannot be with Romeo largely because of their last names. Their families are enemies and neither would ever accept the other into their homes. Standing on her balcony, unaware that he’s listening, she rejects the idea that names could be so important. Why should it matter what you’re called if you’re as awesome as Romeo - at least in Juliet’s eyes?

Still, sometimes our names do matter. It varies from century to century, family to family, and culture to culture, but sometimes your name means more than others might realize. Maybe it was given to you for a specific reason, or maybe it’s influenced how people react to you or what they assume about you. If nothing else, it usually (but not always) reflects the family into which you were born. Sometimes a major religious conversion prompts a name change. Many women still take the name of their husbands when they marry. Best friends sometimes have nicknames for each other which only they use. Couples often call one another by names that no one outside the couple can use without causing problems.

Or maybe your name is just a name and its meaning is only what you give it by being you. That’s OK, too.

The Importance of Communication

One of the primary goals of any English class is to improve our communication skills. While there are an endless number of ways humans communicate with one another, two of the most important and most universal are (a) speaking and (b) writing. We’re going to work on both this semester.

Please note that it’s never my goal to embarrass you or put you on the spot or push you to share anything you don’t wish to share. If you don’t want to say it or write it, then DON’T. I won’t be fact-checking you on anything unless there’s some specific reason I should. Our goal is to get better at communicating our own thoughts and ideas and understanding the thoughts and ideas of others. What your thoughts and ideas ARE is your business. Share them or not as you choose. 

The Name Video Assignment (Due ____________)

You’re going to make a brief video (60 - 90 seconds) talking about your name and share it with me by uploading it to Student ‘Name’ Videos {linklinklink}. Your video can be as simple or as involved as you like, as long as it meets a few basic guidelines.

1) Your video should be at least 60 seconds but no longer than 90 seconds.

2) It should begin with you introducing yourself with your full name.

3) For the rest of your brief introductory video, talk about your name or some part of your name - were you named after someone? Does one or more of your names have a particular meaning? Is your name common? Rare? Often misunderstood? How does your name reflect you and/or how has having this name shaped your life a little bit? (You don’t have to cover all of this. These are just starting places and ideas. Talk about whatever you wish in conjunction with your name.)

Click Here For My Sample 'Name Video'

The Technical Stuff (How To Make It Work)

Use Chromebooks or phones or whatever you wish.

If you’re unsure how to record video on your Chromebook, there are a few quick ‘How To’ guides posted along with this assignment on Google Classroom.

If you’re not sure how to upload your video, click the link for Student ‘Name’ Videos {linklinklink}. Then choose the ‘+ New’ near the top left of the screen, and ‘File Upload’.

Upload 2 Drive

If for some reason you can’t upload your video using these instructions (for example, you don’t have a working Chromebook and you’re doing all of this on another device or something), try sharing it with me some other way - email a link, etc. MAKE SURE YOU LET ME KNOW, however, so I don’t miss it and think you simply didn’t do it.

Email me with questions or problems - {email address}

Flourish Divider

This, pretty much, is my opening day assignment this year. The links will be different (the only one that actually works here is to the sample 'name video' - and even that will look different for students), but otherwise, this is how we're starting off.

I borrowed this lesson from Barrett Doke, who teaches 8th Grade American History in the Houston area. We taught a series of virtual workshops together this summer, and I loved his approach to technology in the classroom, even when 'in person' school was still a thing back in the day. He's done it successfully for years, although I've dressed it up a bit differently (anything you don't like is probably me).

Why This?

Some of my motivation I covered in the actual directions. I won't see my kids in person for at least nine weeks, and that's going to make it difficult to form that there 'rapport' we always talk about. And honestly, while my pedagogy is fine, my strength has always been the face-to-face. Obviously, that's out for a while.

I also believe the part about communication being an essential skill and all that. In fact, the second assignment is a short personal essay which builds on the "let's talk about YOU" idea. Yes, it's partly about trying to establish connection, but the ability to talk about ourselves coherently is an essential academic and professional skill. (You won't get through many college admissions officers or job interviews if you can't handle "so tell me about yourself a bit" decently.)

On a related front, if much of this year is going to be done long-distance, we'd better start getting comfortable using the technology - both students and teachers. If I'm going to ask them to eventually submit video summaries of what they've read or otherwise express themselves using this format, we'd better practice it with something easy first. 

Getting To Know YouFinally, there's an additional, somewhat awkward motivation as well. I'm an old white guy whose hearing isn't what it used to be. I genuinely want to learn my students' names and say them correctly, but there are more each year that I never seem to quite get comfortable with. At the same time, it feels more important than ever that I demonstrate at least that much attention and respect to those whose names are most likely to give me trouble. With this assigment, I'll have a reference as often as I need it to exactly how they want their name pronounced - because they're the ones saying it.

These instructions clearly take an ELA approach, but that's not essential. When I taught American history we'd always discuss the power of names, usually in relation to slaves and slave-owners. I'm not even sure you'd need a justification for it if you're interested. It's your class, and you have to start somewhere.

If you want to give it a shot, all I ask is that you NOT use my sample "name video" or Barrett's. Obviously you'd want to make your own anyway, right? Also, I'd love to hear how it goes - seriously.

Here are my instructions (pretty much the same as the first half of this post) as a Google Doc if you'd rather edit them than start from scratch. You're also welcome to the follow up personal essay instructions. I should probably note that while I'm definitely using these this year, I haven't yet. I honestly have no idea how it will go.

But then, that's often the case - even with things I've used for years. We wouldn't want it to get too easy or boring, would we?

Tin Can Phone

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