November 23, 2014

20 Reading Skills to Teach with The Name Jar

Guest post by Shawna Devoe

My name is Shawna and I am the author of The Picture Book Teacher’s Edition blog. I believe that every book offers opportunities to compare, connect, infer, question, and visualize. I know that teachers are extremely busy and stressed trying to get everything done, planned and prepped. Sometimes it only takes one idea, or example to spark a great lesson. I write book reviews and reading strategy notes to help the busy teacher plan a great lesson for whatever picture book they are reading.

The Name Jar 
by Yangsook Choi
The Name Jar is about Unhei, a nervous little girl who is starting a new school in America. When she tells the kids on the bus what her name is and those kids cannot say her name, she decides that she does not want to tell her class what her Korean name is. Unhei wants to change her name to an American name.

Her class decides that they want to help figure out an American name so make a name jar, putting in all different kinds of names for her to choose from. In the end, will Unhei pick an American name, or will she keep her Korean name? Use the below reading skills, strategies and ideas to help create a meaningful lesson to go along with this wonderful story of fitting in and just being yourself.

Readers React with Strong Thoughts
I teach my students that readers often have strong reactions to things that happen or might happen in a story, and we call these "strong thoughts." For example, a reader might actually find himself or herself talking to a character because of something they are doing or saying, i.e. "I wouldn't do that, you are going to get into trouble." Or it might be a moment  when the reader thinks, "I knew that was going to happen." In the case of The Name Jar, I have specifically picked out a moment in the story that could produce a strong thought. The students will think about what was said and tell Unhei what they think. To make easier to use  this activity, I created a Strong Thought Freebie for you to download. Just click the image below to find it on TpT.

The Name Jar Reading Strategy Notes
You can use The Name Jar as a mentor text when teaching over a dozen different reading strategies or skills, including point of view, character analysis, story elements, and summarizing. I've jotted down my notes about questions and possible topics to discuss for 20 reading strategies. You wouldn't want to teach them all of course, but these notes may help you find a way to use The Name Jar with a strategy you will be teaching soon.  

Reading level: 2.9
Theme/subject: pride, self-esteem
Genre: realistic fiction

Suggested Vocabulary/phrases: grooves and ridges, blush, smiled broadly, identity, pouch

Reading Skills and Strategies: 
  1. Asking questions - {possible questions before} I wonder what he story is going to be about? I wonder what a name jar is? I wonder what the girl is doing on the front cover? {possible questions during} I wonder why Unhei and her family had to move? I wonder if Unhei will make friends at her new school? I wonder if she will be teased because of her name? I wonder what Unhei will pick for her new name? I wonder what Joey is doing at the Korean market? {possible questions after} I wonder if Unhei will give Korean names to the kids in the class? **Remember to have your students answer/reflect their questions. 
  2. Author's point of view – Third person. Be sure to find 3 pieces of evidence to support this. (he, she, her)  
  3. Author's purpose – entertain {evidence} the story has characters, a setting and a problem and solution. 
  4. Beginning, middle, and end - {most important event from beginning} the kids on the bus could not pronounce Unhei’s name correctly. {most important event from middle} Unhei was trying to figure out what American name she should choose. {most important event from end} Unhei decided to keep her Korean name. 
  5. Cause and effect – Why was Unhei nervous and scared? Because it was her first day of school at her new school. Why did Unhei picture her grandmother’s smile when she looked at the little wooden block? Because her grandmother gave it to her before they left Korea. Why did Unhei blush on the bus? Because the kids couldn’t pronounce her name. Why did Unhei not tell her classmates her name? Because she wanted to pick a new American name and she hadn’t chosen one yet. Why was there a jar with names in it on her desk? Because her classmates were trying to help her pick a new name. Why was Joey at Mr. Kim’s market? Because he was ordering his own name stamp. Why did Joey take the name jar? Because he wanted Unhei to keep her own name. 
  6. Character analysis - Describe Unhei. Describe Joey. {looks like, feelings, thoughts, character}
  7. Character changes – In the beginning, Unhei was shy and unsure about her name but by the end she decided to keep her Korean name. 
  8. Compare & contrast – Compare and contrast Unhei and Joey.  
  9. Connections - {possible text-to-self connections} Being new to a school. Having someone tease you because of your name. Having a difficult name to pronounce. Wanting to change your name. Having a friend that likes you just for you. {possible text-to-text connections} Father’s Rubber Shoes by Yumi Heo. In both of these books the families move from Korea to America. Will I have a Friend? by Mariam Cohen. In both these books the main character is worried about starting a new school. 
  10. Fact & opinion – {facts} Unhei and her family moved from Korea to America. Unhei’s grandmother gave her a name stamp. Unhei wanted to pick an American name. Unhei saw Joey in Mr. Kim’s market. {opinions} Kimchi is delicious. The kids on the bus were being mean to Unhei. Madison was the best name Unhei read from the jar. Unhei was really upset that the name jar was missing. Unhei was excited to have a friend visit her at home. 
  11. Main idea & details - {main idea} The story is mostly about Unhei wanting to choose an American name. {details} The kids on the bus made fun of Unhei’s name. Unhei was anxious about meeting new kids at her new school. The kids in Unhei’s class started a name jar to help her pick an American name. 
  12. Plot - The turning point or climax in the story was when the name jar got lost and Unhei found a piece of paper on her desk.
  13. Predict – What do you think the story is going to be about? What do you think a name jar is? What name do you think Unhei will choose? What do you think Joey is doing at Mr. Kim’s market? 
  14. Problem & Solution - {problem} The problem is Unhei doesn’t want to use her Korean name in America. {solution} The students in Unhei’s class start a name jar so that Unhei has names to choose from.  
  15. Sequencing – Unhei was nervous and excited to start her new school. The kids on the bus made fun of Unhei’s name. Unhei decided to not introduce herself to her class till she picked an American name. Unhei told her mom she wanted an American name. Unhei and her mom went to Mr. Kim’s market. The kids in Unhei’s class started a name jar. Unhei showed Joey her name stamp. Unhei got a letter from her grandmother. Unhei saw Joey at Mr. Kim’s market. The name jar was lost. Unhei introduced herself to her class using her Korean name. Joey came to Unhei’s house. Joey showed Unhei his Korean name stamp. 
  16. Story Elements - List title, author, characters, setting, beginning, middle, end, or problem & solution.
  17. Strong Thought – In the story Rosie says that they didn’t get to choose their names when they were born and all the kids thought about this. After hearing this, what would you say to Unhei about her Korean name? (Click to download my Strong Thought Freebie).

  18. Summarize - {someone} Unhei {wanted} wanted an American name {but} but was having a hard time thinking of one {so} so the kids in her class made a name jar to help her find a name. {then} Then came the day for Unhei to choose an American name and she {finally} finally decided to keep her Korean name. 
  19. Theme – It is always better to be yourself. 
  20. Visualize – Unhei wanted to choose an American name. What if you were allowed to choose your own name, visualize what that name would be and why that name would be better than the one you have.

Shawna Devoe is the author of The Picture Book Teacher’s Edition. You may also find her on Facebook and Pinterest. She has reviewed over 140 books on her blog and provides teaching notes for all of them! You can use the searchable links in the sidebar of her blog to find a complete listing of those titles. 


  1. Wow Shawna, I just love your blog posts about picture books and I just love this title :) I was going to do a blog post soon about picture books around names and this one was in my pile for when I get to it! Thanks so much for your great work and generosity :)

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