Saturday, August 6, 2011

How Many Letters In Your Name?

Cover Image
I love stories by Kevin Henkes.  One in particular that I use every year is Chrysanthemum.  I always use this story in the first few days of school.  A little writing, a little math, more getting to know you time and some transitions result from sharing this book with my first graders.  So if you haven’t read the book, it is about a little girl (um, mouse) named Chrysanthemum.  She loves, LOVES her name until she goes to school.  Then dreadful things happen and she isn’t so sure.  Oh, don’t worry, as usual, an amazing teacher comes along and saves the day.  That’s how most stories go, right?  At one point in the book another little mouse teases her, shocked that Chrysanthemum has 13, yes THIRTEEN, letters in it.  So begins our learning.
First, I have students come up and take a quick grab of unifix cubes.  They are trying to estimate the amount of cubes they need to match the amount of letters in their name. 


Then they go to their seat and “spell” their name out loud using one unifix cube for each letter.  The students then have to either return cubes if they have too many or come and ask for how many more they need.  Once they have the amount of cubes matching letters in their name they collect a unifix strip,match it to their amount of cubes, cut the strip and then write their names. I always have them check with a neighbor to make sure they have only 1 letter in each box.

 Now we sort.  I say things like if you have 2 letters in your name sit at the circle table, if you have 3 letters in your name stand at the rug and so on.  I do this until everyone is sorted.
Next, we graph.  I have a classroom chart labeled “How Many Letters In Your Name?”  Each group glues their names in the area showing their amount. Don't forget to analyze your data! 
We leave this chart posted in our classroom and I use it for transitions.  “If you have 6 letters in your name, you may wash for lunch” or “If you have 4 letters in your name you may line up for recess”.  They love it and so do I!
I am adding an activity this year.  We are going to do some shared writing using their names and number words.  Each child will take turn filling in a chart that will look like this:
There are ___letters in the name_____.
There are six letters in the name MaCree.

I am adding an activity this year.  We are going to do some shared writing using their names and number words.  Each child will take turn filling in the chart that will look like this:
I plan on doing a separate post about my approach to shared writing, with details and examples, but here is a quick glance.
Mon-Wed: We take turns coming to the chart and filling in our portion.  For the Chrysanthemum lesson students will fill in the number words and their name.  Then Wednesday after school I do a quick type up of each sentence, print and cut the sentence strip into words for them to put back together. Then I put it in their shared writing bag (aka:Ziploc with their name on it).  Thursday: Students take their bag to their seats, glue their sentence in order on their writing paper, rewrite the sentence.  Then they check our chart to make sure everything looks correct, if so, then they illustrate.  Friday I have all the papers bound into a ‘book’, we do a shared reading of our published work and then it goes into our class library.

Analyze the data

Unifix cube writing

I know lots of teachers use Chrysanthemum in their classrooms. I hope that there is something new that you can use from this post or if I sparked an idea, leave a comment so I can add it to MY Chrysanthemum plans!


  1. I love Chrysanthemum!! It is such a fun name book. I will dig into my files this week because I have a ton on that book. I know we have parents write something on how they chose their child's name. The kids really enjoy this. Just found your blog, so I will have to check back to share!!

  2. Love the activities for Chrysanthemum, we read this every year as well. When I clicked on pics to download it says "error not found". Is there anyway you could email them to me @ Love the blog.