Rationale: This activity gives participants an opportunity to learn about themselves and about each other. The activity immediately introduces the concepts of self-identity and awareness of one’s cultural or ethnic heritage. The activity also builds trust by promoting sharing and by finding similarities in cultural and ethnic ties to naming.


  1. To identify similarities in the group.
  2. To explore the significance of names and the process of naming in different cultures.

Materials: None

Time: 20 - 40 minutes, depending on class size


  1. Tell students that they are going to introduce themselves by sharing something about their first, middle, or last name. If you have a large group, you may want to have students work in small groups to share the story of their names. Begin the activity by modeling it and sharing something about your own first, middle, or last name.
  2. After each student has shared with the group, lead a whole class discussion using some or all of the following questions.
    • What themes did you notice about the stories of people’s names?
    • Did anyone find it difficult to come up with something to share? Why was it difficult?
    • What, if anything, did you learn about yourself during this activity? What did you learn about others?
    • What is the value of sharing the stories of our names?
    • How can exploring names foster cross-cultural understanding?

Note: Some students may not know how they got their name. This exercise encourages them to talk to their families about their names and to learn more about their background.

Adapted from Exercise 1.2, Creating a Culture of Peace in the English Language Classroom by Alison Milofsky (United States Institute of Peace). 

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