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Louisiana Voices Educator's Guide  
Getting Started With This Guide  
Study Guide Summary  
Outline of the Study Guides  
Study Unit I Defining Terms  
Study Unit II Fieldwork Basics  
Study Unit III Discovering the Obvious: Our Lives as "The Folk"  
Study Unit IV The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor  
Study Unit V Oral Traditions--Swapping Stories  
Study Unit VI Louisiana's Musical Landscape  
Study Unit VII Material Culture-The Stuff of Life  
Study Unit VIII The Worlds of Work and Play  
Study Unit IX The Seasonal Round and Life Cycles  
Educator's Links  
Educator's Guide Glossary  
Educator's Guide Credits  
Educator's Opportunities For Professional Development  
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Unit III Outline

Introduction: Our Lives as "The Folk"

Lesson 1:The Child: Games and Play Today and Yesterday In Louisiana

Lesson 2: The School--School Culture Across Louisiana

Lesson 3: The Family--Louisiana Family Folklore

Lesson 3, Activity 1: Naming Traditions (this page)

Lesson 3, Activity 2: Family Pictures

Lesson 3, Activity 3: The Family--Louisiana Family Folklore

Unit III Resources





Unit III
Discovering the Obvious: Our Lives as "The Folk"

Lesson 3 The Family: Louisiana Family Folklore

Activity 1 Naming Traditions


Several men in the community felt the need for a barge to carry people across the high water to Berry Hill, which was a part of the Maçon Ridge and consequently not under water [during the 1927 flood]. Therefore, a group of them met at one of the only dry places in town . . . to build a barge. Propelled by a five horsepower motor (big for that day!), the barge was large enough to carry two cars across at one time. Mr. Adams's brother-in-law from Baton Rouge flew over Winnsboro at this time to view the water. After returning home, he called to remark, "Yeah, I saw old Noah out there building his ark!" Hence from then on, Mr. Adams's family nickname was Noah.

--C.R. Adams, Franklin Parish

Grade Levels



Curriculum Areas

English Language Arts, Math, Social Studies


Purpose of Lesson

Naming is one of many family traditions to study. Students get to know each other better and learn more about their family and community history. After the students have researched their own and their parents' names, they notice names in literature, history, and other studies and know more about these names. By starting with themselves, students see that all families have naming traditions but these traditions differ and change over time.


Lesson Objectives/Louisiana Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Foundation Skills

1. Students learn that all families create and pass on folklore.

SSH-1C-E4 Recognizing how folklore and other cultural elements have contributed to our local, state, and national heritage. (1, 3, 4)

CL-1-D7 Identifying social customs related to religion, family life, folklore, and holidays. (3, 4, 5)

CP-2-B3 Comparing intangible products of the native and target cultures, using authentic materials (e.g., rhymes, songs, folktales). (1, 3, 4)

2. Students research stories of their own names.

ELA-5-E3 Locating, gathering, and selecting information using graphic organizers, simple outlining, note taking, and summarizing to produce texts and graphics. (1, 3, 4)

SS H-1A-E3 Identifying and using primary and secondary historical sources to learn about the past. (1, 3, 4)

CL-1-D5 Demonstrating an understanding of the cultural connotations of common words, phrases, and idioms. (1)

3. Students draw parallels between their own and others' naming traditions.

ELA-7-M1 Using comprehension strategies (e.g., sequencing, predicting, drawing conclusions, comparing and contrasting, making inferences, determining main ideas, summarizing, recognizing literary devices, paraphrasing) in contexts. (1, 2, 4)

ELA-7-M2 Problem solving by using reasoning skills, life experiences, accumulated knowledge, and relevant available information. (1, 2, 4)

4. Students infer characteristics of their communities' history and naming customs.

D-2-E Constructing, reading, and interpreting data in charts, graphs, and tables. (1, 2, 3, 4)

SS H-1B-E1 Describing and comparing family life in the present and the past. (1, 2, 3, 4)

5. Students use written, oral, and online resources to research naming traditions.

ELA-5-E3 Locating, gathering, and selecting information using graphic organizers, simple outlining, note taking, and summarizing to produce texts and graphics. (1, 3, 4)

VA-CE-E1 Explore and identify imagery from a variety of sources and create visual representations

VA-CE-E3 Use art vocabulary and the elements and principles of design to convey the language of art (create and discuss own artwork).

VA-HP-E2 Recognize universal symbols and how works of art communicate a universal language


Time Required

2-5 class periods



Look for popular baby name books that give meaning of names in the library. See Unit III Resources.


Technology Connections

Internet Resources

La Quinceañara: Towards an Ethnographic Analysis of a Life-Cycle Ritual

Louisiana Folk Artist Biographies

Borders and Identity online lesson plan on nicknames, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Yoruba Nigerian Naming Ceremony, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage


Student Worksheets

Matching Name Game Worksheet

Name Game Worksheet

Naming Traditions


Assessment Tools

Anticipation Guide -- Naming Traditions

Rubric for Firsthand Biography


Evaluation Tools/Opportunities


1. Anticipation Guide -- Naming Traditions
2. Portfolios


1. Rubrics for Firsthand Biography
2. Q is for Quality


1. Completed worksheets
2. Completed Anticipation Guides from students and adults
3. Nameplates
4. Portfolios


Background Information for the Teacher

Names tell us a lot about people, places, and even things. By looking under the surface of their own names and family names, students learn more about their family history and folklore as well as cultural differences and similarities and symbolic meanings. Names come with stories attached, and every cultural group has its naming traditions. Some cultures name babies after recently deceased relatives; other families find that practice taboo. Many Western European names that traveled to the United States came from occupations (Baker, Miller, Mason), physical characteristics (Strong, Moody), places (Wells, Woods), or time of birth (Noel, Valentine). Some names are by patronym -- child of (Robertson, O'Connell, bin Sulman).

As with other traditional cultural expressions, Louisiana names are highly diverse and have been creolized over the generations. Some French-speaking people have Anglo or even German last names. As in other parts of the country, African American families sometimes improvise and create new, unique names for children--the "jazz" of naming (Sheneka Washington, Jarmel Johnson)--and since the Civil Rights Movement some parents have chosen more African names for their children or taken African names themselves. Latino families frequently give children both their father's and mother's last names (Maria Valez de Gutierrez). Louisiana's widely diverse family names reflect the state's uniquely complex cultural mix.


To Prepare

Read the family folklore lesson introduction. Be willing to tell stories about your name, accumulate some books on baby names, bookmark Internet sites (see Unit III Resources). For 8th grade interview assignment, read Unit II and Letter to Parents and Caregivers. Duplicate copies of the letter and have each student take a letter home about family folklore activities.


4th Grade Procedure

1. Print out and distribute copies of the Anticipation Guide -- Naming Traditions, which is a series of statements related to this lesson, with which students must agree or disagree. This activity will help students activate background knowledge about family traditions and naming rituals. If students need prompting, use Naming Traditions.

Tell students to show whether they agree or disagree by responding in the appropriate columns.

Have students write a brief response to each statement.

Engage students in an active discussion, asking for their reactions and reasons for them. Note: This is the most important step in the process, don't skip it!.

Encourage students to record other questions and thoughts that occur to them as they work through the activities.

2. Read or share information from the Background Information for the Teacher above and the introduction to Unit III Lesson 3 The Family.

3. Write part or all of your name on the board and tell students the stories behind your names. Ask them to print their full names clearly at the top of a piece of paper, then pair off with another student and switch papers. Students should interview one another and make notes about each part of their partners' names. Give them time to share; make sure they switch partners.

4. Ask students to design a nameplate for their partners to symbolize something about their name stories. They may use crayons and construction paper folded lengthwise or turn to more complex artwork or computer software. This may be done in class or at home.

5. Ask students to tell their partners' naming stories in groups or as a class using the nameplates to illustrate how they visually expressed these stories. The partners should then critique the presentations for accuracy and tell something that they liked about it.

6. Duplicate new copies of the Anticipation Guide -- Naming Traditions and ask students to take them home for an adult complete it. Tell students to discuss the answers with the adult, as well as the statements. They should bring the completed sheets back to class for discussion and comparison.

7. Print and distribute the Name Game Worksheet and divide the class into groups. Have students guess or infer answers to the questions then visit the websites to verify their opinions. To save time, bookmark the sites beforehand. Or, students can use the worksheet online, by clicking on hotlinks and visiting the sites, then writing on the printed sheet.

8. As a follow-up in another period, ask students to categorize names and naming traditions and show results in various graphs based on characteristics such as how many names students have (first, middle, last, for example); students named for relatives; students named from naming books; students named for saints, popular figures, or heroes; names that both genders share; etc. Let students brainstorm categories.

Technology Option: Categorize the types of names using Graph Club for Grades 4-5 or a spreadsheet for Grades 6-8.

Technology Option: Develop a database or spreadsheet using the categories above or those developed by students after discussion. Enter the names in appropriate categories.

9. Students may research names to learn more about their own and others' names. They may also research naming traditions in other regions of Louisiana or the history of naming traditions. They may use books, the library, local genealogical or historical society, or the Internet (see Unit III Resources). They may also work online by following the links on the Name Game Worksheet and Matching Name Game Worksheet.

10. As homework, ask students to interview their parents or another adult about why they chose their children's names, stories about their parents' or grandparents' names, or their own names and nicknames. Are there stories about a person they were named for? Share results in small groups or as a class. Students might add findings to their graphs. They should give the adults artwork or a story they've created from this interview.

11. As a final activity, assign students an essay on at least three things they learned about names and naming traditions during this lesson. You might ask them if any of these things fit the definition of folklore (traditions passed on by word of mouth over time and through space, from place to place, etc.).

Technology Option: Students can develop a multimedia slide show.


8th Grade Background Information for the Teacher

Older students might prefer to study nicknames. Nicknames come to us through family and friends, sometimes sticking, sometimes fading. Family members often nickname young children for characteristics that may even shape our character: Chubby, Streak, Angel, T-Man, Bubba. In French-speaking families of Louisiana, the diminutive "petite" is a common nickname, often shortened to "Tee." So a baby who looks like his Uncle Jacques may become Tee Jacques.

Teenagers' wordplay spills over into nicknaming their peers. Current slang, media personalities, abilities, or embarrassing moments are some sources for nicknames.


8th Grade Activities

1. Use all or selected activities from the 4th grade activities above.

2. Ask students to interview at least three adults about their nicknames and how they got them. Have their nicknames changed over the years? Do they like or dislike them? Do they know anyone else with this nickname? Do their nicknames say anything about them when they were younger or about them today? If cameras are available, students might photograph their interviewees. They may record their interviews or take notes (see Unit II ).

3. Students should report back to the class about their findings, then choose one of their interviewees' stories to write about or as inspiration for artwork.

4. Access the Rubric for Firsthand Biography and use it to evaluate the interview process and results.


8th Grade Explorations and Extensions

1. Choose a naming tradition to research independently, your own or a custom of another cultural group or a region of Louisiana. Include personal interviews as well as books and online resources. Graveyards are a good place to examine how names have changed over time. (See Unit IX Part 2 Lesson 3 for more activities using graveyards.) Also delve into primary resources such as parish birth records or historical society records.

2. Choose some folk artists from different cultural groups found online in Louisiana Folk Artist Biographies, and study their names. What can you tell about their names? Are there clues to age, gender, region, ethnicity, or religion? Use the Matching Name Game Worksheet to find regional Louisiana names online. Remember to be cautious about making cultural assumptions about a person, however. The story behind a name reveals more than the name itself.

3. Research a way that we change our names--marriage, baptism, coming of age customs, nicknaming, or by choice. For example, some women choose to hyphenate their last name and their husbands' last name or to keep their maiden name after marriage. Interview a number of people and research in the library and online about name-changing customs. Find a Yoruba Nigerian Naming Ceremony in Washington, D.C., on the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage webpage. Study the Latina custom of fifteenth birthday celebrations called La Quinceañara on the webpage, La Quinceañara: Towards an Ethnographic Analysis of a Life -- Cycle Ritual.


Unit III Resources

Unit III Outline


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