Idea Exchange – How to Remember Pupils Names

This is the second in a series of crowd-sourced posts for new teachers.  This time you to share your ideas for remembering pupils names.  There was a fantastic response and many of the responses will be helpful for established teachers as well as those just embarking on teaching.   Thank you to everyone who took time to contribute.

You might also find Cybraryman’s Learning Your Students’ Names page a useful resource

So here are your tips:

  1. Our school takes photographs of every pupil – these are invaluable
  2. Try to ‘attach’ something to the child – some fact about them
  3. Play games with them where you have to get their names right.
  4. Associate children’s name to your friends’ names
  5. Have seating plan in front of you all the time at the beginning of year. You’ll soon learn their names
  6. In interviews I get all kids to stick a sticky label on they chest and write their names nice and big on them. It has a really good impact on the Observer, if you use the kids’ names all the time 😉
  7. Get them to choose adjectives starting with the same initial letter as their first name
  8. Seat them in alphabetical order to start with….and/or use a koosh ball and call out their name when you ask questions – make a game of YOU learning their names….
  9. Use name cards at the beginning of the year but instead of just having their name also get them to include something different next to it e.g a doodle, favourite tv character…
  10. I make sure that at the beginning of each academic year, I call out the register list. After the first few times I also ask them to reply not only with ‘sir, present…’ but the answer to a question e.g. name one thing you had for breakfast this morning…
  11. Names on desks and a seating plan on your desk, name tags for playtimes. We have each class having a different shape and colour so its obvious who belongs to whom
  12. Use your register. Even after playtimes and lunchtimes for the first week or so!
  13. If you have a lot of kids with the same (ish) name always make sure they are not sitting anywhere near each other, otherwise they will all answer when you look in their direction
  14. homemade posters with pictures to keep on the walls
  15. use students names in classroom conversation
  16. associate kids names with their parents names
  17. Practise
  18. Keep practising!
  19. Easiest way to learn kids names, as a HT, is to spend time and learn about them. Easier to remember them when you know them.
  20. I try to learn a row/group each period – breaking it down helps
  21. having photos on the seating plan helps A LOT!
  22. I never seem to learn them all until I’ve written their report
  23. Revision of names before every lesson
  24. Labels on computer screens at the beginning of the year
  25. we do a memory challenge and I make them recall each other’s names which prompts my memory! We do games about their name such as the alliteration game (Glorious Giggly Georgina etc.)
  26. alphabetical order – get the kids to sort themselves into alphabetical order, lots of saying their name as a prompt
  27. ‘I am…this is…’ game where you sit in a circle and they say their name and the names of the people to the left and right of them. Helps the teacher by hearing the name
  28. Focus on the pupils with recurrent names. I learn them easily: there are two pupils named Sonia in the class and I try to figure the difference in mind between the two pupils if not physically, it’s another criteria. It depends.
  29. Focus on the names of the most active learners. In fact, it’s the easiest task to learn the names of the motivated learners.
  30. the way learners are seated helps a lot, too. Sonia is always sitting next to May for example.
  31. Seating plans always work for me. Don’t change seats until you know each child’s name!
  32. I have two sets of twins in Sept, they tell me that they want to be treated as if they weren’t related so I have seated them away from each other.
  33. rehearsing the names as I write them into my planner, seating charts, etc
  34. rehearsing the names with the faces on the first day of school while seating them and calling on them.  Often I will go around the room trying to call out their names in order of the seating charts
  35. Rehearse the names at home according to the seating chart in my mind.  Once I can recall the face with the name I begin to say “hello” to them every time I see them outside of class.  This method works for me so well that by the end of the first or second day, I know everybody.
  36. seating plans in excel
  37. badges on day one if feeling fun
  38. trial and error
  39. Use your people skills to put a student at ease if you try the wrong name first…!
  40. whenever you talk to a pupil or ask them a question get them to tell you their name and then repeat it back in the conversation
  41. First day I asked each student to say their name & wrote it phonetically on my chart
  42. Always welcome each child each day at door with their given name Learn something about each student’s name such as, what does their name mean, who were they named after, or what country their name comes from.
  43. Associate their picture with their name daily.
  44. Practice naming the students often.

And here are some ideas you elaborated on more fully:

A fun introduction game for primary on day 1!

Arrange class in a circle. They must all think of something they like or like doing.

  • 1st child starts … my name is ‘David’, I like football.
  • 2nd child … David likes football, my name is Sarah, I like dancing.
  • 3rd child …. David likes football, Sarah likes dancing, my name is Bob, I like cars.
  • 4th child ….David likes football, Sarah likes dancing, Bob like cars, my name is Ehio, I like maths.
  • 5th child ….David likes football, Sarah likes dancing….. I think you’ve got the idea by now
  • Last person is you!!!

Children find this fun to remember – and it is good for new children as well. With 30 children, it takes a little while BUT, you will know all their names by the end!

Letting children move around

It’s important to let students move around during and change the sitting order, so my tips would be:
Tip 1 Take a photograph of the class that you can look at at home
Tip 2 Let the students introduce themselves or each other and have them wearing name tags in the beginning (alternatively names on their desks as students might feel awkward to wear tags)
Tip 3 Engage with the students, go around and help, during group activities, then you should learn their names quickly!

Name badges

Make labels (Hi I’m _______) with students names on them. Let them wear them first couple of days until I know their names…usually takes 2-3 days. I wear one too so they can see my name and associate it with my face. I started this after the first year they did lice check on first day, and random kids would come to me to check off their names on list and I said who are you…

Giving names more meaning

I give an exercise. Everybody has to fill up a paper with this questions and speak about it.
What does your name mean? (In Turkish names have always a meaning)
Would you like to change it and why?
How has your name affected your life?
Why did your parents choose it?
I rarely forget their names after this lesson.

Recommended Reading

I’d recommend reading DerrenBrown’s book Tricks of the Mind which explains several excellent methods for remembering anything. I used one of the techniques he describes in an interview lesson. The students were amazed and needless to say, I got the job

When the pupils already know each other but they’re new to you

I teach grade 7. Typically, the kids know each other well already so getting them to play name games isn’t useful for them. So during our first week, I go through their names a couple of times a day while they’re working on something independently. I tell them I’ve been working on it and let them know I’ll try it aloud as soon as I’m ready. On the Friday I go for it whether I’m ready or not (I usually am). They get a kick out of it. There’s usually one or two I get mixed up but it let’s them know I’m human. 🙂

Celebrity mind games

Whenever meeting new people, I always think of a celebrity with that same first name then take something memorable about them and mentally place it on the person. Eg. if I meet someone called Chris, I could think of Chris Evans, add vibrant red hair and thick glasses to my mental image of that person. It might sound complex, but it’s really quite easy!

Thank you to everyone who contributed:
@misskmcculloch @asober @bluemoonjules @umerz1 @bryanplumb @keelygriffiths @MathsChatterbox @SesameSwirl @cybraryman1 @wilkins105 @mrzerber @ohrchadashtech @barasale @LearningSpy @bryanharrison31 @Mr_McLaughlin @karlao_dtn @Pliroforiki2 @krivett1 @RomdhaniFaten @mellissoula @angelayt165 @ChrisTaylor_OCT @barbarakingsley @Shaf_Hansraj

If you’d like to see other Idea Exchanges or contribute to the next Idea Exchange, please check my Idea Exchange Page for the links.