Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Name Jar

Author: Yangsook Choi

Illustrator: Yangsook Choi

Grade Level: K-3

Unhei, a little Korean girl, has just moved to America from Korea.  On the bus ride to her new school; Unhei introduces herself to her bus mates, or at least she tries.  When she introduces herself as Unhei her bus mates begin to tease her for her unfamiliar name, calling her “You-hey.” When Unhei arrives at her classroom she decides not to share her name with her classmates fearful they will tease her as well.  Instead, Unhei tells the class she will choose an “American” name and share it with them the following week.  For ideas, Unhei and her classmates write down names on slips of paper and throw them into a “name jar” for Unhei to choose from.  During the week, a classmate named Joey runs into Unhei outside of school and discovers her name and its beautiful meaning.  The next day, at school, Unhei discovers the name jar has gone missing, ultimately helping her decide to keep her Korean name.  She introduces herself and teaches the class the meaning of her name and how to pronounce it.  After school, Unhei discovers Joey took the name jar because he wanted her to keep her Korean name and is eager to learn more about Korean culture.

Element 2:
Element 2, “Respect for Others” teaches students to respect one another’s cultural differences. “The Name Jar” encompasses element two in many ways.  Reading “The Name Jar” students can see how the teasing on the bus made Unhei ashamed of her name and culture.  Students are made aware of the impact of teasing others for their differences.  In the end, Joey’s friendship helps Unhei decide to keep her name.  Joey is a good model of how to respect others and how students should embrace cultural diversity rather than reject it.  Furthermore, Joey’s eagerness and positive attitude toward learning about Korean culture encourages students to find differences interesting as well.

To incorporate “The Name Jar” into the classroom, students could do an activity writing short stories about the history of their names. The stories would include why their parents chose it, where their name derives from, what it means, and any other interesting fact the students would like to share with the class about their names.  Also, with the help of the teacher or a parent with knowledge about Korean culture/language, students could find Korean names with similar meanings to their own.  In an upper elementary classroom, students could learn about the tradition of choosing names in Korean culture and how Korean’s and many other Asian countries use characters instead of the Latin alphabet to write. 

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