Article

How I Do It: Learn Students' Names

Creative ideas for memorizing new names from fellow teachers.

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Know Your ABC’s
Before school starts, I make a list of all my students, in alphabetical order by first name. By opening day, I have most names down pat, and then I just have to put names to faces.
Denise C.

By the Book
I look at the yearbook pages from the grade before off and on all summer. By fall I have about 80 percent committed to memory.
Julie J.

Right From Wrong
Just get them wrong—once—and you’ll remember the next time!
Maggie M.

(Not So) Great Expectations
I teach middle school and have as many as 150-plus kiddos per year. I tell them day one, “It may take me till Christmas to remember your names.” When I have their names all memorized before then, they’re happy.
Denise A.

Pen Names
The first class writing assignment is for students to write about how they got their names. They can ask their parents and write a true story, or they can completely make it up (which leads to some crazy stories!).
Carol P. D.

Awesome Alliteration
Alliteration. On the first day, I have the students’ names memorized.
Maryanne H.

Curly-Haired Chris
I associate each child with a unique characteristic, such as “Curly-Haired Chris.” This helps me remember their names when I see them again.
Elizabeth W.

Strike a Pose
On the first day of school I take a picture of each student and make photo rosters to use initially. They come in handy later in the year for subs and  for emergency folders.
Jessica P.

Name Names
I learned this from my dad, who taught for 40 years: Practice first, and then always say the person’s name when greeting, calling upon, etc.
Kris C.

Front to Back
I put name tags on my first graders’ fronts and their backs. For days. I want them to know that I can tell who is doing what even if I can’t see their face. It works!
Irma M.

Strike the Right Note
When the children arrive and when they leave, I sing each one of their names in a little song I’ve made up.
Debby G.

First Things First
A lot of teachers make their seating charts in alphabetical order by last name, but I usually put mine in order by first name. I can trigger my memory better by knowing the first letter. During my first year as a librarian, I had 500 names to learn.
Kerri C. 

 

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