AZ Name Stories Workshops

1ArizonaFlagLogowithStarThe Arizona Name Stories Project uses journalism practices (research & interviewing) and creative nonfiction writing techniques to tell the stories of Arizonans, past and present. They are published as multimedia stories on Instagram @AZnamestories.

I’ve undertaken this project to build on past name stories writing and research and expand to include more people’s stories – in the form of short CNF/journalistic-style stories I research and write, plus first hand (as in the case of student workshops that I’m leading during my sabbatical), as well as stories written by college students in some of my classes.

Below is the curriculum plan for the workshops, which could be replicated by teachers in K-12, college, at camps, in public library sessions, etc. Any teacher who wants to lead a workshop and join this project should email me at angele.anderfuren

If any other Arizona resident isn’t part of a class or workshop, but wants to take part in the project, please email me at namesredefined

In these workshops students will learn about:

  • name etymology (onomastics, the study of proper names)
  • history (connecting themselves with notable places/people)
  • data discovery (researching name popularity data)
  • interviewing techniques (interviewing classmates & their parents/grandparents/guardians)
  • finding trustworthy sources
  • creative nonfiction writing techniques (turning research/interviewing into something publishable that other people want to read)

ALL participants must sign the publication contract release form: AZ Name Stories participant release form

High School Workshop – Conducted in a computer lab or with iPads/phones with wifi

  • Day 1 (55 minutes): Part 1 & 2
  • Day 2 (55 minutes): Part 3 & 4
  • Day 3 (55 minutes): Part 5 (optional)

This can be done three consecutive days, once a week for three weeks, or some other combination based on time available to teacher. Alternatively, each part could be done in a shorter period spread over additional days. The high school workshop was designed for a high school honors AP English class for seniors at a local public high school.

Part 1: Name Etymology

  • What is onomastics
  • What’s your name mean? Where does it come from?
  • What’s your name story?
  • What/who shares your name (places/people)?

Part 2: Journalism Fundamental: Research

  • What makes good research?
  • How to take notes?
  • How to find reliable, trustworthy, expert sources
  • How to credit a source in journalism + what can/cannot be used

Assignment: Students research their names’ meaning and popularity.

  • Must note all sources used. All sources must be reliable, trustworthy experts on the topic and a record of exact content taken/credited to each source must be shown.
  • Good sources include: SSA, USGS,,
  • Search first, middle, and last name meaning/origins
  • Search for first name and/or middle name popularity

Talk about name findings in class, if time allows. Finish for homework.

Part 3: Journalism Fundamental: Interviewing

  • How to conduct an interview
  • What makes a good question
  • What makes it journalism

In class assignment: Students practice interviewing in partners, take notes for 5 minutes. Ask at least 5 questions. Everyone shares a few interesting facts about their partner with the class.

Homework assignment: Interview a parent/guardian/grandparent about how YOU got your name. Ask about given name, as well as nickname the family calls you. Also talk about origins of your last name. Ask at least 8 questions. Record interview & transcribe the interview word for word later to get accurate quotes.

Part 4: Turning research into publishable writing 

  • How to write a journalism-style creative nonfiction essay for publication
  • The “do’s” of professional writing

Homework assignment: Write a 300-500 word “name story” essay about your name.

Part 5: Sharing stories  **optional workshop day**

Students bring a final draft of their essay to class, volunteers share with each other. Photos of participants will be taken in class for publication on Instagram.

Alternatively, students and/or teachers can submit the students’ work directly to the project at namesredefined to be considered for publication. All elements need to be in a public-access Google Drive folder, loaded and checked by the submitting teacher.


Elementary Workshops: The Arizona Name Stories Elementary School Workshops were set up for students in 3-5 grade as part of a specialized topic class offered weekly in the partner school. Workshops are 45 minutes in length, four Fridays in a row plus an additional “sharing day” in which parents are encouraged to attend a presentation in the classroom by all students. The elementary school workshop version has basically the same content as the above high school workshop format, with younger kid-friendly presentation and in-workshop activities. Day 1: Research, Day 2: Interviewing, Day 3: Writing, Day 4: Editing, Day 5: Sharing. The teacher-partner of the initial elementary workshops also decided to use the name project as part of her history, social studies, geography, reading and creative writing units.


Every workshop student who submits 1-3 of the below:

  1. a publication permission form signed by themselves and a parent/guardian
  2. a digital copy of their original name essay with minimal grammar/spelling/punctuation errors & proper source attribution is submitted by the deadline
  3. a selfie and/or name artwork is submitted by the deadline
  4. (optional) Instagram @handle, if you have an account and would like to be tagged in the published post.

… is eligible to have their name essay considered for publication on @AZnamestories on Instagram. Stories may be edited for length, inappropriate content, errors of any sort, etc.

Note: Not all name stories may be accepted for publication.

Please note: Comments on the @AZnamestories Instagram page will be deleted for hate speech and any other inappropriate, rude, offensive remarks, as determined solely by @AZnamestories editors.

Google Slides Presentations are available for use in this project by emailing angele. anderfuren@