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Learning Student Names

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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Personally return assignments to your students during individual or group activities. While this can be time consuming at first, it allows you to associate written names with faces. It also allows you to associate the work, style, penmanship, etc. with the student.




The posting below gives some great tips on learning student names, something that can make a real difference in faculty-student communications. It is by Rick Sheridan, assistant professor of communication at Wilberforce University in Ohio*.


SPECIAL NOTE: The tips presented here have been distilled from multiple sources in particular the article \"Not Quite 101 Ways to Learning Students' Names,\" compiled by Michael Palmer, Associate Professor and Assistant Director, Teaching Resource Center. See:




Rick Reis

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Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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Learning Students Names


Teachers who are slow in learning the names of their students often tend to be rated as uninspired and uninspiring. Teachers cannot claim to be concerned about how well their students learn if they themselves do not try as hard as they can to show they care about one of the most important possessions anyone can have in a mass civilization: a face and a name. This article goes over several ways to quickly learn student's names. The author recommends that you try out several of these methods to find the one that works best for you.


Before Coming To Class, Read The Class Roster Several Times. Focus on the last names and honorifics (Mr./Ms.). Memorize as many of them as you can. Then you can concentrate on looking for Williams and remembering what he or she looks like. At this point there is no need to focus on the first, or given names. That just increases memory burden without yielding initial benefits.


Provide A Student Survey During The First Class- On the first day give a brief survey that asks for a name and e-mail address (or favorite sport, etc.). Be sure to include an open-ended essay question about backgrounds and expectations. Allow students at least 15 minutes of writing time. While the students are busy writing, study their faces, clothing styles, posture, or anything that you can use to personalize the individual student.


Set Up A Mnemonic Position Chart- The first row on your left \"A\", the second row, \"B\" and so on. Students often return to the same seat they sat in during the first class, (or somewhere close by). Then, starting with position \"A1,\" ask the students to introduce themselves and say a few words about themselves and their expectations for the course. While listening as carefully as possible to what student \"A1\" is saying, find the name on the class roster and code \"A1\" next to it. Add any notes that might help you remember that student. During the next class, refer to your class roster and chart. (A variation of this is the Take A Digital Photo below)


Review- Before the second class meeting, review the surnames and the survey results and attempt to recollect names, faces and places. Spend some time testing your knowledge of students' names: Which ones can you name? What are the names of those you cannot identify? What identifiable characteristic will help you remember certain students?


Ask for Help- When you cannot remember someone's name ask other students for help. You will find that you know many more names than your students.


Tent Card- Provide a large index card for students to write their name on. Have students fold it in half and display it on their desk so you can see it. This serves as a visible reminder to you and rest of the students. For best results, collect the cards at the end of class and re-distribute them at the beginning of the next class.


Personally Return Assignments to your students during individual or group activities. While this can be time consuming at first, it allows you to associate written names with faces. It also allows you to associate the work, style, penmanship, etc. with the student.


Frequently Use the Names of Students that you already know from other classes along with the new names you have learned. Students whose names you don't use will tend to feel that you know them as well. This strategy is especially effective in large classes.


Arrange Your Students Into Groups of two and have them introduce themselves to each other, and then come up with three interesting things about their partner. Have them introduce their partner to the class. This is often less embarrassing for shy students than to introduce themselves.


Scavenger Hunt: Think of some questions related to the course or the personality characteristics of classmates. Invite students to find a different person who can respond \"yes\" to each question, e.g., Who has traveled to Canada? Who speaks a foreign language? Who knows two causes of the Civil War? Who has done volunteer work with small children? After students have had time to find classmates who fit the descriptions, you can have a follow-up discussion on one of the topics.


Driver's License Photocopy- Ask the students to make a photocopy of their driver's licenses or any other type of picture identification card and use that to help you identify the students. Be sure to ask them to cross off any sensitive information, such as their address, etc.


Alternative Adjective Name Game- The student sitting at one of the corner desks at the front of the room begins by taking the first letter of their name and selecting an adjective that begins with the same letter. Examples include: \"Athletic Alice.\" The second person has to repeat the first person's name preceded by its alliterative adjective and then gives their own. The third person repeats from the beginning and adds his or her own to the game.


Another Name Game- Start by having seven to ten students introduce themselves and then ask an individual in the group to name other individuals: \"Luke, which one of these people is Rick?\" \"Rick, point to Susan.\" \"Susan, what's the name of the person sitting next to Attila?\" If Susan doesn't know the name of the person next to Attila, I'll say \"Ask Attila!\" or \"Ask Luke!\" In doing it this way, I can keep everyone on his or her tippytoes, because anyone might be made responsible for an answer at any time


Office Visits- Ask students their names when they come to visit you during office hours. Have a notebook to keep track of who visits along with their difficulties and concerns.


Pointers- Ask students to give their names every time they speak to you or to the class.


Let Them Organize It- Tell students that you are going to leave the classroom for a few minutes. When you return, you want each student to be able to introduce five classmates to you. It is up to them how they are going to do this. When you come back, ask for a volunteer to introduce five students. Let the extroverts get things started.


Take a Digital Photo of the class (or each row), print it and ask students to write their name next to their photo.



*Rick Sheridan's Bio:


Dr. Rick Sheridan is an assistant professor of communication at Wilberforce University in Ohio, where he teaches journalism, graphics and business courses. Rick has also worked as a journalist. His news and feature articles have been published by the Chicago Sun-Times, St. Petersburg Times, Winston-Salem Journal, New Orleans Times-Picayune and by refereed journals including: Academic Exchange Quarterly, Educause, Teaching for Success, etc.