How to learn names… it’s that time of year again!

Are you a teacher or member of school support staff who is struggling to learn the names of the children in your class(es)? If so, this blog is for you. Read on for some helpful ideas…

 

When I was a teacher, I worked in secondary schools as a science specialist. This meant that I saw around 200 different faces each week. It was a nightmare to learn all their names, so I did some research and came up with these simple ideas which might help you, too.

1 – Seating Plans

This is an obvious one which you’ve probably already tried. By asking the children to sit in assigned places, you can simply keep a plan on a sheet of paper in front of you with their names written in the spaces where each child sits. This method works well until you have a room change, or do an activity where the children are not in their usual seats. So it’s a useful tool to help, but is not the answer in the long-run. Plus, building relationships with pupils is about showing them that you want to get to know them and looking down at a sheet of paper because you can never remember their name is probably not sending the right message on that front!

2 – Name Badges

Name badges can be a good starting point for learning names

Again, an obvious idea and one that can be useful for the first few lessons each year. Simply get your students to put their name on sticky labels and wear them while they are in your class. This will also help the children to get to know each other (and you can sell the idea to them in this way!) But after those first few lessons, you’ll be on your own so you need some other tricks up your sleeve to get those names committed to memory.

3 – Visual Associations

This article gives some useful hints and tips to learn names. One of which is from a teacher called James Paterson, psychology teacher at LVS Ascot, and finalist in the World Memory Championships. He explains that:

“My top advice for recalling names is to create a visual association between the student’s name and their face, no matter how weird or illogical it might seem,” he says. “If your student is called Oliver for example, you could imagine him begging for more marks, like Oliver Twist – it’s incredible how easily the full name can be recalled with only the most tenuous of associations.”

This method may take a little time to implement but should help you to remember many of the names of your students.

4 – Flash Cards

Learning names isn’t just going to happen by itself. Much like learning information for an exam, you’ll need to invest a little time and energy into learning the names of the children in your classes. Another simple method is to make some flash cards and practice at home. Many schools can provide you with a visual register of your class. This should include a photograph alongside the names of the students. Use this to create a set of flashcards with the children’s names on one side and their photo on the other. You can then test yourself, or get someone else to do it with you until you know all of their names. This method could also be combined with the visual association method to speed up the process.

5 – Use their name labels for help

The vast majority of students will have something with their name on – it may be their bag or it may be their pencil case/books etc. Identify a time in your routine when you can see such items and use it to practise the names of your students. For example, if your class come in every morning with a book bag, you could stand by the door and greet them each by name as they come in, using their bag as a cue if you get stuck. If you repeat this every day, you’ll know their names in no time. Alternatively, you could insist that each lesson is started with exercise books/diaries etc on desks and whenever you walk around the room, have a quick peek at it for a reminder of the names as you speak to the children. The more you say it out loud while looking at them, the faster you’ll commit those names to memory.

Do you have any other methods?

If you have any useful tricks to learn the names of your students, why not share them with us in the comments section below? We’d love to hear how you manage to learn all the names of your students each year, and it might help other people, too!

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