The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (Grades 1-3)


Names are powerful. Our parents choose them for us, giving our life beautiful meaning from the moment we are born. But to feel the need change your name, to feel forced to change your name is a painful reality faced by young Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. Unhei is new at her school having just moved from Korea. Kids on the bus make fun of her name, her race and ethnicity. Bullying hurts her so much that she would prefer to shun who she is and her own history and pretend to be something she is not. But sometimes it helps when a friend helps us realize that we only ever need to be ourselves.



  • Assorted foam letters, shapes, numbers
  • Glue
  • 5″ x 5″ cardboard square
  • 2″ x 2″ cardboard square
  • Ink Pads
  • Blank white paper


Discussion Questions

  1. What does Unhei’s grandmother, her Halmoni, give her at the airport? [answer: Dojang]
  2. What were things kids doing on the bus? How did their bullying affect Unhei?
  3. How did other people try and make Unhei feel like she belonged? [Mr. Kim, the kids in her class, Unhei’s mother]
  4. What do you think changed Unhei’s mind about herself?
  5. What does Unhei’s name mean?
  6. What does your name mean?


Activity #1: Making a Dojang


You are going to make your own Dojang. By gluing the foam shapes on the larger cardboard square,you will construct your Dojang. If you want to spell out your name– use letters of different sizes and shapes to decorate. But don’t forget! When you glue the letters– make sure they are backward! That way whey you use your Dojang–your name will appear just right.

Be creative! Your Dojang should be a reflection of who you are, what your name means and what your name means to you!



Activity #2: Taking on Bullying

Teacher note: When addressing bullying in schools, we are often challenged when it takes on a clearly bigoted, racially charged tone; even when it happens among young students. In addressing the issue, many adults focus on the hurt, taking issue with the meanness of the behavior. Acceptance and tolerance don’t always equate racial or ethnic plurality. More importantly, when addressing the behavior of the bully we lose sight of how strongly children of color are affected and how they internalize a hatred of themselves.

For younger grades we have developed several activities that focus on plurality, and can be powerful in addressing race and ethnicity-based bullying. If you have not yet implemented these in your classroom, we do suggest it following this reading, and in conjunction with other readings in this section.

Our curriculum builds upon itself– to move students to understand how American society comes to justify targeted and sometimes violent anti-immigrant and racist behavior, policy and belief. Clear examples of this include the Chinese Exclusion Acts, Alien Land Laws, Gentlemen’s Agreement with Japan, Executive Order 9066 and the Japanese American Incarceration, attacks on South Asians following 9-11. What begins on an individual level eventually reaches societal and institutional levels.