Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge teaches the Importance of A Good Name
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Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge teaches the Importance of A Good Name

Book Title: Wilfrid Gordon Mcdonald Partridge

Author: Mem Fox


Book Summary:

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge is a small boy who has a big name - and that's why he likes Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper, because she has too. So when he finds Miss Nancy has lost her memory, Wilfrid determines to discover what memories are so he can find it for her. This is a perennial classic, perfect for reading aloud.

Enduring Understandings:

  • A name represents our actions, thoughts, and deeds, the very essence of the person who carries it. 
  • We bring honor to our name by the way we live our lives and the good that we do.

Essential Questions:

  1. What does Judaism teach us about the importance of a person’s name? 
  2. What do we want to be remembered for?

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

In Judaism, like in many traditions and customs, names tell us a little bit about who we are as individuals. In medieval Europe, Jews began to take on surnames that connected to the name of their fathers - for example, Jacob, son of Isaac, transformed into Jacob Isaacson (you might recognize “son of” in many languages as a popular ways that names end or begin; ‘off’ in Russian, ‘a’ in Romanian and ‘vitz’ in German, for example). Our surnames, then, can directly link us to our families.

Or, many of our names tell us something about our occupation - for example, the jewelers of the community would also be known as the Golds, Diamonds, or Silvers, or the shoemakers would be known as the Shusters. As a whole, our names reveal our character, and our names are a shem tov, a good name, when we live an ethical and moral life.

As such, first names or Hebrew names often are in memory of a loved ones. By being named after someone, we, as namesakes hope to live a life full of dignity and honor as they did.

When we strive to be a shem tov, we strive to embody values such as kavod (honor and respect) and chesed (kindness). As a shem tov, we set high standards for ourselves on how we act and behave towards others. It is something we work for, as Hillel notes in Avot 2:7: “If you have acquired a good name, you had to do it yourself.” In addition, Judaism would consider that true wealth is the character that we have worked towards having, as it is written in Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is more desirable than great wealth, more even that silver or gold.”

Questions for Reflection

  1. How does your name define you as a person? 
  2. Where does your name come from, and does it help shape who you are? 
  3. What are three things you can do that demonstrates how you strive to be a shem tov? 
  4. How can you incorporate the concept of shem tov in your classroom?

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Many teachers make name cards by writing the children s names on sentence strips cut to the length of each child s name. Use this opportunity for students to identify their Hebrew name if they have one.

 Have the students decorate their name cards as an expression of their personalities. Use the cards to manage various activities, such as group projects or work. By having students place their names on their desk, it is clear whether or not there is space for another student to work.

Materials and resourcesmore


Copy of Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge


Music Video of “I Wanna be a Mensch,” music by Joanie Leeds, lyrics by Joanie Leeds and Jessica Lenza, © 2007: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZ7TmGnvbWg

Sharing The Storymore

Introducing The story

Explain that you will be sharing a book about memories and a little boy, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, who has four names! Ask students, “How many names do you have?” Go around the room and have students introduce themselves using all their names. Ask students to share what they know about their names and explore any nicknames that might be used for them that they enjoy.

Reading The Story

Read the story aloud, stopping when appropriate to explore illustrations, address comments, clarify, predict, and guide students’ understanding of the story and the importance of a good name - a shem tov.

Discussion questions might include:

  • Have you ever seen or visited what Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge calls an “old people’s home”? Do you know of another name for that type of community (senior center, assisted living)?
  • I wonder why having four names seemed important to Wilfrid Gordon. What do you think?
  • How does each person in the story describe a memory to Wilfrid? What do you think a memory is?
  • Do you ever ask more than one person the same question? Do you get the same answers? How do you choose which answers are true? Can more than one person be ‘right’?
  • How would you describe Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge? What do you like best about him?

After The Story

Give Me A Memory
Do a “Whip Around” by going around the room quickly and having each student share a special memory. (A student may say “pass,” but remember to go back to that student when all the others have responded.)

Mentionable Mensches
Watch a student created music video of the song, “I Wanna Be a Mensch,” music by Joannie Leeds and lyrics by Joannie Leeds and Jessica Lenza http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZ7TmGnvbWg
After listening to the song, have students revise their original definitions to create a class definition. Discuss things people do that make them a mensch. When the students understand the concept of the word, have students think about a person they know, or have studied about, whom they believe is a mensch. Have each create a puppet representation of this person, then present to the class why they chose this person as their mensch by pretending to be that person, showing students the words and behaviors that are displayed by the type of person who is shem tov.
Shem Tov

Introduce the Shem Tov Award. In Judaism, it is not only important to have a good name but to do good in the world. Create an award given weekly, monthly or yearly in recognition of an individual’s (or group’s) commitment and contribution in terms of community service or service learning. Since we hope to teach children to live by the words, “For the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah” (Mishnah 2), the award given can come with some type of assistance in which the individual’s or group’s efforts can be furthered enhanced.

Creating Our Crowns
In groups, have students discuss what the word “honor” means to them and then put their ideas together to create a class definition. Copy this definition and keep for future reference.

Explore the meaning of this sacred text:
R. Simeon said, “There are three crowns. The crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship. But the crown of a good name is more important than all of them” (Pirkei Avot 4:17).

Discuss the Jewish value of the importance of a “Good Name,” Shem Tov.

  • Ask students whether or not they thought Wilfrid brought honor to his name.
  • Ask them how they can bring honor to their own names.
Have students make “Shem Tov” crowns. The teacher will stencil out crowns to hand to students or the students can create them from sentence strips or bulletin board borders. Before putting the crowns on, have students write various things they can do to be a shem tov, such as: making your bed in the morning, brushing your teeth, being nice to your brother and sister.


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Name Crafts

Arts and Crafts
Visit the “Happy Hooligans” blog for a creative ideas to create Name Art: http://happyhooligans.ca/salt-glue-watercolour-art/ and Name Puzzles:http://happyhooligans.ca/easy-name-puzzle-2/

For more activities and crafts related to our names, see: http://www.state.lib.la.us/empowerlibrary/name%20related%20activities%20and%20crafts.pdf

The First Gift
Story Share, Personal History
The First Gift by A. S. Gadot celebrates the importance of each individual’s name. Before reading the book aloud, show students the cover and ask, “What do you think the first gift your parents ever gave you might have been?” After listing their responses on the board, read the book and discuss the “Jewish Naming Customs” on the last page.

Discuss the following:
  • How is a name like a gift? Explain.
  • Ask students if they have any other names that they have not already shared (e.g., nicknames, their Hebrew names, etc.). Go around the room to give them a chance to reintroduce themselves.
  • The narrator of the book says that when he grows up he might be called “Doctor” or “Rabbi” or “Coach.” What are some other names students might students be called someday?
  • Where do parents get ideas for selecting children’s names (e.g., the Torah, current movie stars, characters in books, etc.)?
  • Why do you think the Jewish people have always placed so much importance on the naming of their children?

Meaning of My Name
Research, History
Explore the following website: http://www.behindthename.com/

Name Acrostics
Language Arts, Creative Expression, Literacy
Ask students to spell out their names and write a poem using each letter of their name as the first letter of a word that describes them. This is not only a great way to have students describe themselves, but is a good extension activity for the concept of adjectives. Alternatively, let students visit http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/acrostic/ to assist their process.

Music Connectionsmore

List of All Songs


by Miss Emily Aronoff Teck


Explore the concept of a Legacy, ask children to write down what they want their legacy, which can be understood as their reputation, to be. Then, write down the types of behaviors, including specific examples and goals, that will help them achieve the reputation they desire. Periodically check in with students, to help them reflect on their success in achieving the legacy they desire. This exercise might be particularly helpful when behavior modification is desired.


With my community I share a legacy
Its how we learn and grow from Jewish history
How you’ll remember me will be my legacy
So every choice I make should be made thoughtfully

A legacy is really special, right now we’re creating one
Made of ideas and memories, the good and bad and sad and fun
Shows how we have grown and learned, shared many celebrations
Each moment finding new teachers and friends, Live a life of many graduations


When you think of me I hope you think of A kind and respectful friend
Who can forgive and say ‘I’m sorry’ when its time to make amends
Who makes healthy choices, helps and visits those in need
Protects the earth and all creatures, ready to learn and teach and read

Jewish learning Matters, teach me how to speak up
Jewish learning matters, cause’ this world we can fix up
Jewish learning matters, each good deed will add up
Jewish learning matters, Each day as we grow up

Additional Music Connections


What’s in a Name
Explore with children the meaning of their names. Ask parents to engage in their child’s learning about the importance of a good name by helping their child learn more about the origin of the child’s name as well as parents’ names. The following prompts can help:

  • What is the “history” of you child’s name. What stories can you share regarding how their name (English and Hebrew) was selected? 
  • Do you have pictures of those for whom you child was named? What do you know about those for whom you were named? 
  • What is the “history” of the names of others in your family? 
Invite families to create an art project that displays the answers to the above prompts. Using magazines or photographs, work with your child to create a collage, mobile, or other artistic rendering to reflect the significance of his/her name. The art piece can be made using any shape (e.g., a favorite toy, a favorite animal, etc.). Enhance by adding elements that reference other family member names as well. Don’t forget to include your child’s English and Hebrew names and their meanings.

  • Additionally, consider helping each child in creating family trees that describes not only the members of their family (including aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents) but also the meaning of their names

literature connectionsmore

TitleAuthorIllustratorBook Summary
The First Gift* A.S. GadotMarie LafranceA Jewish boy tells about the first gift he ever got—his name.
Sophie's Name Phyllis Grode Shelly O. HaasGRADE: K+
Sophie Davida Finkle-Cohen is unhappy with her name. It has too many letters for a short person, she concludes, and convinces her family to call her Sue. But as Sue begins to learn about each of her namesakes, the name begins to fit just right.
Justin's Hebrew Name Elle Gellman GRADES 1+
When Justin begins Hebrew school without a Hebrew name, his friends and the rabbi help him pick the perfect one.
* PJ library Books