Yoruba Naming Ceremony

By: Anitra Jensen


Level: Early Elementary


  1. Students will identify the history of their own names.
  2. Students will write a sentence describing how their name is similar or different to Yoruba children's names.


  1. Teacher copy of Yoruba background information.
  2. One piece of beef jerky, a bottle of oil, a container of water, a piece of rock salt, one sugar cube, a piece of ginger, one cola nut and a one dollar bill.
  3. A questionnaire sheet with questions about the origination and meaning of the student's names and any celebration that was part of their naming.


  1. Introduce the lesson by talking about the teacher's name and the significance of it. For example: My middle name is Ann, my parents gave me this name because it is a name that has been in my family for many generations. My mother's middle name is Ann, my grandmother's middle name is Ann and my great-grandmother's middle name was Ann. I am proud to have Ann as my middle name because it was and is the middle name of people that I greatly admire.
  2. Tell the students that their names may have significant meaning and that you want them to find out the history behind their names. Have the students take home the name questionnaire and ask their parents the history and significance of their names. Have the students find out if their was any kind of celebration that was part of their naming. Have them fill in the questionnaire and bring it to school the following day.
  3. The following day provide time for the students to share the results of their name questionnaire with the class.
  4. Start Yoruba section by saying the following: "Today, I'm going to share with you how the Yoruba people get their names."
  5. Do the following mini-presentation on Africa:
  • The Yoruba people live in Africa. They live in the southwestern part of Nigeria.
  • Show the students Nigeria on the map.
  • Explain how the Yoruba people do not pick names for their children before they are born. The child's name is selected on the basis of a significant event or circumstance at the time of their birth. For example a Yoruba child born in America might receive Olatubokun as a name. Olatubokun means "It is time for my honor to come back home." Another example is the name Monisola. A mother who had four sons and then gave birth to a daughter may name her daughter Monisola. Monisola means "I have my own share."
  • Explain that after a baby is born a naming ceremony performed. In the naming ceremony many symbols are used. Show the dollar bill . Explain that a piece of money is held up and if the child reaches out and grabs the money the child will have wealth. Hold up the beef jerky and explain that the child is given a very small piece to eat. The piece of meat represents nature's bounty. Water is dabbed on the child's face, this represents the cleansing forces of life. Oil representing calm in periods of travail is dabbed on the face. The child is given a taste of salt and sugar, these are used to improve taste and therefore bring pleasantness to life. The child is given a taste of cola nut, this represents longevity because a cola nut does not fall from the tree until it is fully ripe. Ginger represents good health and the child is gives a piece to taste. After the ceremony, there is a party and a feast.
  1. Ask the students to identify similarities or differences between how they were named and their naming celebration and how a Yoruba child is named and a Yoruba naming celebration. Give the students a sheet of paper and have them write one sentence describing the similarity or difference between their name and celebration and a Yoruba name and celebration.


  1. Evaluate the students' questionnaires on the histories and celebrations associated with their names.
  2. Evaluate the students' sentences about similarities or differences between their names and Yoruba names.
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