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The Power of Names: Our family Surnames assignment

Supports the Univ 1301 section "The Power of Names"


This is a group assignment that addresses the goals of using technology, teamwork skills, simple research, and making an oral presentation.

Overall goal: Create a PowerPoint presentation of 5-10 minutes and present it to the class.

Required sources:

  • At least one dictionary
  • At least one Internet source

Your presentation should include:

  • A title slide with the title of your presentation, your team name, your individual names, and the date
  • A slide for each name studied
  • A concluding slide with a reflection, comment, or observation about surnames
  • A bibliography slide
  • Pictures may be included but are not required

Please see the grading rubric in the box at the bottom of this page.

Our Family Surnames assignment

Each person in the group will select one or two surnames. You may choose your own surname or other surnames in your families, such as your grandfathers' surnames or your grandmothers' maiden names.  If two students have the same surname, one of you should choose a different one. Answer the questions below for each name studied.

What is the derivation of the surname (the language and word it comes from)?

The surname probably fits into one of these categories. Figure out which one and explain if necessary.

  1. Patronymics (Johnson)
  2. Place names (London)
  3. Office or profession (Reeve)
  4. Animals, plants, minerals (Rose)
  5. Implements or tools (Hammer)
  6. Food and drink (Rotwein)
  7. Abstract ideas or inanimate objects (Hope)
  8. Physical peculiarities (Tallman)
  9. Character or temperament (Courage)
  10. Dress or finery (Ring)
  11. Property or wealth (Richman)
  12. Occupation; habits; outstanding adventures (Baker)
  13. Relation to God (Abdallah)

Has anyone in your family ever changed his or her surname for some reason (besides a woman adopting her husband's surname)?

If there is an interesting family story about your surname, please include it.

When you have finished the research, work together to write two or three sentences of reflection about surnames.

On your final slide, list the references you have used.


Rubric: Our Family Surnames

This assignment is worth five points. Each of the 10 items in the rubric is worth 0.5 points.

  1. You met with your Peer Leader about the project or submitted a rough draft of your PowerPoint.
  2. Everyone has researched one or two names in his or her family.
  3. Spelling and grammar are correct on all slides.
  4. Two or more reference sources are noted in the bibliography.
  5. Full information is given for each name: derivation, category, comments.
  6. Your team presentation has a unified look and logical organization.
  7. You are all dressed appropriately to give your presentation.
  8. You have planned how you will share the presentation.
  9. You are on time, with computer set up and ready to go; presentation is not longer than 10 minutes.
  10. You introduce yourselves professionally and speak clearly.


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