Lesson Plans: Grades 3-5

Lesson 4: Non-British Surnames

Tools

The Lesson

Introduction

Last names as we know them now

Last names as we know them now originated in the Middle Ages from people’s occupations, where they lived, their father’s first name, or even their appearance or disposition.

Modern American society is known for its ethnic diversity, and this, of course, is reflected in a wide variety of surnames. In this activity, students will learn about the origins and meanings of surnames commonly used in the United States that derive from non-British cultures.

Guiding Questions

  • What characteristics do non-British surnames have in common with British ones?
  • What are some of the differences?

Learning Objectives

  • Students will learn some of the common characteristics of surnames around the world.
  • Students will also learn some of the unique characteristics of surnames in different countries.

Preparation Instructions

Become familiar with the materials used in the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark websites you plan to use. Download and duplicate charts used in the activities.

You can find additional background information about surnames at the following sites:

  • Access The Origins and Meaning of Names available through the Internet Public Library and scroll down to The Origins of Surnames Around the World (Most non-British surnames fall into the categories of patronymic, descriptive, locative, and occupational.) What are some of the differences? (Chinese names have only one syllable; many Greek names have a religious connection; recently created Hebrew names tend to be descriptive; all Italian surnames end in a vowel; most Japanese names are locative; and so on.)

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. Non-British Surnames
1.Chinese surnames:
1. name:
2. name:
3. name:
4. name:
5. name:
1. meaning:
2. meaning:
3. meaning:
4. meaning:
5. meaning:
2. French surnames:
1. name:
2. name:
3. name:
4. name:
5. name:
1. meaning:
2. meaning:
3. meaning:
4. meaning:
5. meaning:
3. German surnames:
1. name:
2. name:
3. name:
4. name:
5. name:
1. meaning:
2. meaning:
3. meaning:
4. meaning:
5. meaning:
4. Greek surnames:
1. name:
2. name:
3. name:
4. name:
5. name:
1. meaning:
2. meaning:
3. meaning:
4. meaning:
5. meaning:
5. Hebrew surnames:
1. name:
2. name:
3. name:
4. name:
5. name:
1. meaning:
2. meaning:
3. meaning:
4. meaning:
5. meaning:
6. Hispanic surnames:
1. name:
2. name:
3. name:
4. name:
5. name:
1. meaning:
2. meaning:
3. meaning:
4. meaning:
5. meaning:

Assessment

  • After the charts have been filled in, call upon students to share some of the names they have found, as well as their meanings. When each of the seven cultures is mentioned for the first time, have the student tell something about the origin of surnames in that culture.

The Basics

Time Required

1-2 class periods

Subject Areas
  • Art and Culture > Subject Matter > Anthropology
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Europe
  • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Asia
Skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Cultural analysis
  • Discussion
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Interpretation
  • Logical reasoning
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
Authors
  • Suzanne Art (AL)