Using Student Names

It's important to use student names often. Here are a few reasons why and also some tips on how to remember them at the beginning of the year or a course.

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I will be the first to admit that I’m very poor at remembering student names. I never found it easy to do. But over the years, I’ve learned some things that work for me and they aren’t difficult to do.

Using a student’s name in class is a must. Research shows that when a student is called upon and they hear their name, some form of attention is activated and it facilitates understanding. It also helps build classroom community, students feel more part of, and identify stronger with the group.

When an instructor knows everybody by name, students feel more at ease, have more confidence in the instruction and do better in class. So the quicker you can get student names remembered the better!

So how do you remember students names if you are like me, a forgetful sort?

Well, here are a number of things that might work for you.

  1. The first few days if students don’t know each other yet, use name tags. Either ones students wear or get them making one to put on their desk. It can seem a little kindergartenish but it will help everybody learn each others names.

  2. Make a seating plan with the names of students in bold. Laminate it and keep it on your desk, front and center. Carry it around if you are comfortable with that and when you call on a student, you can slyly refer to it. When students are at their desks working, reference it again and work at remembering names.

  3. One strong mnemonic way to remember a name, is to associate the name with some feature or characteristic of the student. It’s like learning, you have to make connections, a personal connection. So if David says he likes baseball and that’s your favorite sport also, connect “David” to “baseball”. I often use adjectives of personality. If Sally is a little "silly”, I connect the two and then have an easier time remembering the name.

Also, initially get into the habit of saying a student’s name back to them.
trick works wonders and will help the name stick in your head.

  1. The first week or so of school, plan many activities where students have to use each others names in class. There are many classics. Find Someone Who. Guess Who. Name chain memory games and others … One activity I do is an acrostic name poem. Students use the first letters of their name to write about themselves, and tell the class more about their lives.

  2. You might even discuss with students the importance of using names in class instead of impersonal pronouns. Students might also be able to offer up some tips on how to remember names! I bet you they will. Maybe even introduce the topic with Destiny Child’s “Say My Name”.

In the coming week’s, we hope to write and share more about teaching things and tips that are related to the first weeks of school or a course. There is a lot to cover! See some previous posts here on the blog, related to this.

What did you say your name was again?