5 different strategies [games] for teachers to play to help learn students' names

I probably don't need to talk about the importance of knowing all your students' names... not to this group. I will say however, that I wholeheartedly believe that referring to students individually by name in class is one of the most impactful things a teacher can do to help retention, and make students feel important and seen.

GAME ONE

Mark the roll by saying the students' first name, and they say their last name as the response. Then the following week, switch it the other way, with you saying the last name and them saying their first name. This is providing auditory information which helps many brains learn information. And it's connecting first and last name, which (counter-intuitively) makes it easier to remember than just one name.

Then after a few weeks, start testing yourself by asking the students to go around the room saying their first name (this is without the roll in front of you) and YOU respond with their last name. The challenge and the pressure will help to reinforce the memory connections. And if you fail it's unlikely a student will be upset, since it's their last name you're forgetting, not their first name.

Trust me, names are easier to remember if you know the first and last name. Often if you have a mental blank when looking at the child, you won't be able to think of their first name until you think of their last name and then it comes to you.


GAME TWO

Flash cards. Take photos of your students. Print them. Get the students to write their names on the back of the photos. Then practice with them at home, in the same way that 3 year olds start learning to read. Flash cards work.

This is a good one for studio owners / principals to be able to know every student in the studio, even the ones you don't teach.

To take it to the next level, when the students are writing their name on the back of the photo, also get them to write their parents' names. Then you can start testing yourself on that too. It's great to be able to run into a parent at the shops and be confident saying "Hi Susan, how's Sally?"

Bonus tip:

Incorporate the photo taking of a new student into the onboarding process at reception. This way it's delegated to the reception staff, and not taking up valuable class time.


GAME THREE

I do this all the time when I'm teaching Acting/Drama. I call it the "confidence booster" but it's more often than not just because I forget a child's name.

It's simple. Sitting in a circle, every student takes a turn of introducing themselves to the rest of the class. "Hi, my name is ___________ ______________, I'm _____ years old, and I like _________________." (They choose something they like to share with the rest of the class.)

Not only does it help the teacher connect face and voice to name, as well as personality information (what they like), it helps the rest of the class learn each other's names too - which is a big deal, and promotes friendships and strong peer connections.

Of course it has a secondary benefit, which is that it genuinely does increase the confidence of the students. The ability to speak loud and clear to a group, and introduce oneself, is important to develop for any age group, starting at preschool age. And doing it weekly, with a switch up of the "...and I like" to other statements like "...my favourite colour is...", "...and I'm afraid of...." etc. makes it a fun exercise and helps all the students get to know each other better. Once they're used to it, the whole exercise should take less than a minute or two even for a large class.


GAME FOUR

Every lesson, mark your roll without calling out the names, looking around the room and ticking those who are there. When you find a name on the roll and you don't know whose face belongs to that name, put a tiny dot next to it so you can come back to it. Then once you've done it, see how many are left and if you can piece together the puzzle of those you didn't mark.

If then you're stuck on a few, mark the whole roll as normal. You'll know most of it anyway, but you'll be listening out for who says "here" when you say that name you don't know.

Then focus on learning those names that you put a dot next to, using them in class a few extra times to reinforce it in your brain.


GAME FIVE

This one works a little better with older students. Have the class take turns around the room introducing themselves and providing a "trigger" for the rest of the class (and the teacher, but we don't need to let them know that) to help remember their name. They will have to be creative to come up with clever associations and connections, which will be funny but likely memorable.

eg. "I'm Monica, like from Friends"

"I'm Cael, like the spinach stuff but spelt weirdly"

"I'm Veronica, it's easy to remember because I drink V all the time, so when you see me think of V which will make you remember Veronica".

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