Learning names is an important message, and it is the first step in building a community of learners and in establishing a cohesive group. It is essential if you want to create a good rapport and establish a comfortable atmosphere in the classroom. Teachers who learn students’ names quickly, help reduce feelings of anxiety and nervousness that most students experience during the first few weeks back to school.
Most people are afraid to dance, sing or perform in front of strangers, because they are afraid of being laughed at, teased or judged. But they are not usually afraid when they are among friends. How friendly we are to one another usually depends on how much we know about each other. If I don’t know you, I tend to ignore you. If I know a little about you, I usually acknowledge you with a hello. But if I know a lot about you, I take an interest in you and your activities; I converse, ask you questions, make observations and enjoy being with you. In a classroom where people know each other well and are friendly with one another, they feel free to speak and act in front of the class, to recite and not worry too much about making mistakes or what others think. The message is clear; we are here to learn, we can all help one another and we all make mistakes — that’s the way we learn. Our names are extremely important to us. Names are likewise important to the teacher, the student and the other class members. Knowing each other begins with knowing names. It improves the relationship, shows respect, offers a better learning environment, and increases classroom interaction. It is a crucial first step toward creating a safe, effective leaming atmosphere. Think of strategy, commitment and help!
“It is important to me that I learn the names of every one of you. I want to do it as quickly as possible. I think I can learn all of your names.
But I will need your help.”
Have students bring in a photo of their-self on the first day, or take a picture of each student yourself. Place their photo next to their name on your attendance or seating chart. This will help you correlate and remember names with faces. Create Photo Flashcards to help you remember students’ names quickly, take photos of each child and create photo flashcards. There are many creative ways to display or use these devices. Names on stiff paper, folded so they stand up, can be decorated or illustrated. Drawings that help reflect the name will help in memorization. For high school students, making drivers licenses, passports, ID cards or admission tickets. You can also view and print all the photos by selecting ‘Display photo composite of the entire class’.
Photo Memory Game
Take photos of each student and then create a photo memory game with them. This is a great activity for the students to learn their classmates’ faces, as well as give you a chance to learn them too!
Review students’ first names several times before the first class, trying to memorize as many of them as you can. Then use the names as often as reasonably possible in the first few classes. Review the names right after class, picturing faces with names and noting any distinguishing characteristics. Review students’ names with them; e.g., “You’re Bill, right? Susan. Your name is Mark.” This feels risky, but students love it. When you cannot remember someone’s name (or when you pretend you cannot), ask other students for help. You will find that you know many more names than your students. If you have a few minutes to yourself, just before class or during group activities, spend some time testing your knowledge of students’ names: Which ones can you name? What are the names of those you cannot identify? What identifiable characteristic will help you remember certain students?
Frequently use the names of students you do know, those who participate, who come to your office, whom you find memorable for any reason. Students whose names you don’t use will tend to feel that you know them, as well. This strategy is especially effective in large classes. Ask your students to share a little known fact about themselves, something memorable, interesting, weird, or unusual. In addition to sharing the information directly to the class, the students can write their unknown fact on information sheets, which you can use to help remember them and get to know them better.
Alliterating Adjectives: Ask each student to pick an adjective which starts with the same letter as their first name and also defines a personal characteristic, e.g. Enthusiastic Ellen or Gregarious Greg. The alliteration is fun and serves as a mnemonic for remembering their name. Ask the students to introduce themselves and explain their choice of adjective.
Here are some fast and easy ways to learn students’ names at the beginning of the school year:
Seating Chart – Use a seating chart for the first few weeks of school until you can put names and faces together.
Greet Students by Name – Everyday greet your students by name. When they enter the classroom make sure to use their name in a short comment.
Pair Students in Groups – Create a quick questionnaire about what the likes and dislikes of your students are. Then group them together according to their choices. The point of this activity is to help you remember students by associating them with their preferences.
Wear Name Tags – For the first week or so have students wear name tags. For the younger children, place the name tag on their back so they won’t feel the urge to rip it off.
Name Cards – Place a name card at each students’ desk. This is not only a great way for you to remember their names, but it will help the classmates remember as well.
Memorize by Number – Beginning the first day of school, strive to memorize a set number of students each day. You can memorize by number, color, name etc.
Associate Related Names – A great memory trick is to associate a name with a person you know that has the same name. For example, if you have a student named Jimmy who has short brown hair, then imagine your brother Jimmy’s long hair on little Jimmy’s head. This visual link will help you remember little Jimmy’s name in no time.
Create a Rhyme – Create a silly rhyme to help you remember students’ names. Jim is slim, Kim likes to swim, Jake likes snakes, Jill can juggle, etc. Rhymes are a fun way to help you learn and remember quickly.
Play “I’m Going on a Trip” Game – Have students sit in a circle on the carpet and play the “I’m going on a trip” game. The game begins like this, “My name is Janelle, and I am taking sunglasses with me.” The next student says, “Her name is Janelle, and she is taking sunglasses with her and my name is Brady and I am taking a toothbrush with me.” Go around the circle until all students have gone and you are the last to go. With you being the last person to recite all the students’ names, you will be surprised how many you remember.
Being able to identify a student by name make a take a few weeks but with these tips and tricks you will learn them in no time. Just like all the other back to school procedures and routines, it takes time and patience, but it will come.
adapted from Teachers.net Gazzette