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Ways to Learn Student Names

Drew Oman, teacher in the English as a Second Language Department, is THE expert in this area. You may wish to consult him but in the meanwhile here are some techniques:

Names on Desks:
As the students arrive on the first day, pass out heavy pens with which they can write their names on card stock, folded such that the names stand up.  Immediately start calling students by name and TRY to memorize their faces!!

Name Games:

  • This is a technique from Edwina Stoll:  As an Ice-Breaker on the first day, ask students to get themselves into alphabetical order by first name across (possibly diagonally across) the classroom.  Then go around the room, asking each student to say his/ her name as loudly as possible.  The class responds: "Hello, _________."  Edwina further solidifies this mnemonic by putting everybody into groups for a first exercise by choosing groups of four from the alphabetical configuration.  This may help you to remember names because you will remember that ________ was in the A/B group. 
  • Traditional Name Game:  Sit in a circle such that all faces are clearly visible (nobody behind anybody else).  Ask one student to start.  That student merely says her/ his first name.  The student on the right or left, then says both names, and the next student says all three.  If you have a very large class, you may choose to stop at the half-way point and start over but don't reveal this in advance as it will lessen incentive to learn the names.
  •     Variation:  Each person identifies herself/ himself with an alliterative adjective, such as "humorous Henry."  You do exactly the same game but with the addition of the adjectives.
  • Popcorn Name Game:  A student starts by saying his/ her own name and the name of a student in the room who is not sitting on either side of her/ him.  The student whose name has been called then does the same, but cannot call on a person already named.  This continues until all students have had a chance.
Personal Conferences:

Nothing solidifies your command of student names like short (even five-minute) meetings with each student.  These should begin by the second week of the quarter if possible and should be one requirement of the course.  You may use them to go over a test or piece of writing, or you may use the time to discuss the student's personal learning preferences or goals (in the class, at De Anza, in life).  Take notes, preferably on the questionnaire so that all your information about the student is in one place.  If you are a part-time instructor or if you are teaching Summer Session, you may excuse your class about twenty minutes early each day, and use that time for four or five meetings per day.

 Updated Friday, October 12, 2007 at 11:19:54 AM by Marilyn Patton -
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