Wow, the school year quarters fly by fast! Just when you have gotten to know every student’s name, the quarter ends and another new batch of class lists are in your mailbox and on your computer screen. So many names, so many students and only so many days…
In the beginning of my teaching career, I made it a point to learn every student’s name within the first two days of class. Students were impressed and honestly, I felt a little smug. Fast forward 20 years and 14,000 names later, and this was no longer the case. It is especially difficult as the quarters go faster and the names are becoming much more unique. It was still really important for me as a teacher to learn every student’s name. (Not just the ones who were naughty) In a room of 30 plus students, my objective was for every student to feel personally acknowledged by me. To help my name-filled brain remember new names, I developed a couple of strategies that might be of help to those of you who have trouble remembering names.
To imprint the names in my brain, I hand wrote my seating charts rather than letting a computer do it for me. I assigned the names alphabetically by their FIRST name. I staggered them boy, girl, boy, girl, etc. By placing them by their first name I knew, for example, that the students’ names at a particular table were the A or B’s, which would prompt my memory. I also knew students who were in other classes together that were alphabetized by their last names would now be split up and get a chance to know other students.
When taking attendance on the first day of class, I would ask students to read the class syllabus or work on an activity. This gave me the opportunity to go around the classroom and meet each student one-on-one, smiling and making direct eye contact with each one. I let the students introduce themselves to me, so I could learn the correct pronunciation of their names or find out their nick names. If there were unique pronunciations or nick names, I would note them on my seating chart. I would tell each student something like “It was nice to meet you,” “I hope you’ll like the class,” or some other friendly comment.
After I met one section of the room, I would stop to review the names I just learned and quiz myself. I would then proceed to the next section of students and meet them one-on-one. It was really worth the extra ten minutes of class time to learn the names from the get go. During the rest of the class period, I would try and use the student’s name whenever I called on or questioned them.
I recently read a fun novel where the main character has a horrible time remembering names. To help herself remember, every time she met a new person, she would come up with an adjective to describe the person using the first letter of their name. For example, “Adorable Abby” or “Terrific Toby.” (I just used my dogs’ names for the example) This would be a great way meet students on the first day of class. The students could introduce themselves using an adjective using the first letter of their name which would also give some insight into their personality as well.
I hope you will find these strategies helpful as you meet another new round of classes. What are some strategies you have developed to help you remember your students’ names?