Posted by: Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. | August 20, 2009

Classroom Management – Learning Students’ Names #1

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.


The first day of school is an extremely important one – especially for a new student. No one needs to be embarrassed by having his name mispronounced or by being called by the name on the class list that isn’t the name he goes by. (Eldrick Woods? Is there a ELDRICK Woods here? Tiger would not have been a happy camper)

But who knows the correct pronunciations? The given names? Most of the students do. By middle school, many of the students know one another and they can assist the classroom teacher with the “first-day-get-the-names-right-AND-first-day-learn-everyone’s-name” activity.

What I call “Names, Places, and Faces” is my tried and true method for getting the right names, learning and remembering the names, and involving the class in an interactive exercise.

Names1, Places2, and Faces3

Challenge one or more students to learn all of the names with you. I usually ask for two volunteers from the class who think they know just about everybody. I often suggest a major reward will be given at the end. We stand at the front, one volunteer on my left, one on my right. Speed and a sense of humor help make the whole event lighthearted.

1. Have Volunteer #1 name everyone. Then go to Volunteer #2. Next, try it yourself but start with the first row of students, and learn each name, repeat as necessary, until you can name everyone. Then learn the second row – while repeating the first row. Name all of the boys, those wearing glasses, those with long sleeves. Then learn the third row – and go over Rows 1 & 2. Make sure your volunteers take part along the way. Do the first people in each row, then the last people. Do those wearing a certain color. Add the next row. Cumulatively go over everyone. Learn the next row . . . and so on. Announce that you are now leaving the room – but only for the 30 seconds they will have to switch places. For now, your volunteers can rejoin the class.

2.  Return and name everyone in Row 1, then Row 1 and Row 2, and so on until you have named everyone. Have the student(s) who have agreed to name everyone attempt to do so. Announce that you are now leaving the room again– but only for the 30 seconds they will have to switch places and “faces.” This is one of the best parts. When I say, “Okay guys, I’m leaving. I’m outa here. Oh, but I’m only going for 30 seconds . . . and this time I want you to change places and faces.” Invariably someone, not a chorus of someones, asks what I mean about changing faces. This gives me the opportunity to show them I am not some stodgy old coot. I act out what I would look like with a changed “face.”  I take off my glasses, I make a face, I suggest letting my hair down (with my balding pate this usually elicits a few chuckles), putting up a hoodie or a collar, switching sweaters, etc.) The only rule is that I must be able to see a student’s eyes. One time a student sat under his desk, hoodie over head, and appeared as nothing more than a good imitation of a rock.

3. After 30 seconds in the hall, return and try to name all of the students. Have your students helpers name everyone – a timed challenge often works. Award the winner with some token reward – candy, a special handclap (sprinkler, ketchup, seal of approval) from the class, or the highest reward of all – FAME & GLORY.

*** keep practicing at every opportunity: as students enter the class, when you see them in the halls. Whenever you interact, try to include the use of the student’s name. In the first week of school, I have been able to learn every student’s name by employing the initial game followed by concerted repetition.

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