Lesson #2: Spell names correctly

Teacher and students checking name

It is just as important write students' names correctly as it is to say students' names correctly. Learn about the impacts of misspelling students' names and what steps you can take to ensure that students' names are written correctly. This topic is part of the Learning Students' Names professional learning module from Colorín Colorado.

Note: Information under Lesson Content, Assigned Reading, and Assigned Video is included in the related module quiz.

Learning Objectives

The learning objectives for this topic are:

  • Understand the importance of writing students' names correctly
  • Understand the negative effects of misspelling students' names in student databases
  • Learn more about naming conventions in different languages and cultures

Warm-Up Activity

  • Have you ever experienced an error with the spelling of your name that caused a problem? If not, can you think of how this kind of error might be problematic?

Lesson Content

What You Need to Know

Misspelling students' names in school databases can impact the services and instruction a student receives, especially if the name is entered multiple times and/or misspelled in different places. In addition, misspelling a name may further complicate students' efforts to register for activities and programs — especially as they get closer to graduation and college applications.

Tips for Educators

  • Verify the spelling of students' names with students and/or families, working with an interpreter and front office staff if needed. If families have low levels of literacy, find out if any other documents are available that include the student's name.
  • Check that students' names are written correctly across school records and student databases and that there aren't multiple entries for one student.
  • Ensure that students can write their own names, especially if they speak a language that has a different kind of writing system. Help students practice with fun games and activities.
  • Children may have multiple given names, and naming conventions from your families' cultures and languages may be different than in the U.S.
  • Be sure to clarify students' first and last names.
  • Parents may spell names differently, such as Estefany, Jhonny, and Yessica. Use students' names exactly as they're spelled and refrain from correcting families or students, or changing the spelling.

Assigned Reading: Naming Conventions

Please read through the below guide to learn more about naming conventions in several different languages.

Getting It Right: Reference Guides for Registering Students With Non-English Names

This set of naming conventions guides from IES and REL Northwest can serve as a reference for accurately and consistently entering students’ names in school, district, and state databases, as well as addressing and greeting parents and other family members in a culturally responsive and respectful way. The guides are available for students with home languages of Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Ukrainian, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Assigned Video: Losing a part of my name

Read the guiding question below and watch the related videos.

Guiding question:

  • How did Ms. Acevedo feel about her name and about her name being changed?

Executive Sylvia Acevedo talks about why her name was shortened when she first went to school.

Reflection/Discussion Questions

These questions can be used in self-reflection, written reflection, or discussion activities.

  • Think about how student records are maintained in your setting and how different systems interact. What could the impacts be of misspelling a student's name in your school databases?

Extension Activities

Extension activities may be used in training, for assignments, or for learning artifacts that can be submitted for credit to professional learning programs.

Writing Students' Names Correctly

  • Read the section about names in 10 Things You Need to Learn About Your ELLs. What are some recommendations you can use?
  • Choose a language from the guide below that your students speak (or a language you'd like to learn more about). Read the section and review how students' names are entered in school records. Are the entries consistent with recommendations? If not, raise the issue with administrators and bilingual colleagues before making changes to the records.

Recommended Resources

See more resources in our related gallery, as well as our easy-to-share resources from Colorín on the Go.