Tips for Remembering Students’ Names - Middle and High School Version
A person's name (and preferred pronouns) are an essential part of their identity; this is especially true for pre-teens and teens, who are just beginning to explore and galvanize their identity and place in the world. Learning a student's name, face, and preferred pronouns in a timely manner shows a student that it is important for you to connect with them, and that you value them as an individual.
While some teachers can have everyone's name down pat by the end of the first period, others need a little more help. If you struggle to remember your students' names, here are a few tested tips to help you learn your students' names fast.
Tip #1 - Create a seating chart right away.
When your students walk into your room, be prepared and have seats assigned to them. Seating charts will help you quickly connect names and faces during attendance and when calling on students. If you keep the seating chart on a podium or a clipboard in the front of your room, you can covertly glance down at names when needed so students won't be the wiser.
Tip #2 - Give students the opportunity to let you know their preferred name.
Be sure when you first take attendance on that first day to ask for students' preferred names. You don't want to get through an entire academic term calling a student Christopher when he actually prefers Chris, and he was just never given the opportunity to tell you. This is also important for preferred pronouns. Some students may be clear that they wish to be called by a particular pronoun. Allow students to share this with you, and set the tone by honoring their request from the outset. Not all students are outgoing and confident enough to correct a teacher, and others have cultural beliefs that it is outright rude to correct an elder. So take a moment to ask them, and allow them the chance to correct you. This one step can be monumental in creating connection, trust, and a culture of inclusion and respect in your classroom.
Tip #3 - Greet students at the door.
I like to stand at the door and casually greet students as they come in. I've had colleagues who effectively and joyfully shake hands with every student as they walk in. I prefer a less formal approach, smiling and saying good morning, using names whenever possible to reinforce them in my brain. I also make quick chit-chat with them because knowing a little about them helps me solidify a relationship and remember names.
You will be surprised at the impact when you greet students at your door using their preferred names. It communicates that you value each person walking through your door. And that brief moment creates a connection that will usually translate into fewer classroom management issues in the long run.
Tip #4 - Make name cards.
This may sound cheesy, but it works! If the seating chart doesn't help or you choose not to use one, paper tent name cards can also help. You can either make them yourself or allow students to tap into their inner artists and create their own. I have always been blown away at some of the hidden talent students have - especially when they are tasked with creating artwork surrounding one of their significant identifiers - their own name. Have students tuck them in their books and reuse them all week until you have a better grasp of their names.
Tip #5 - Say their names when you call on them.
It may feel awkward at first, but it is a networking trick in the business world and beyond. The adage says that saying a name three times when you meet a person will help you remember. You may be hard-pressed to use every student's name three times in a class period, especially if your class numbers 35+ students each period. However, after a few days of practice, you can surely get in your fair share of naming and remembering.
Tip #6 - Use what you have.
Most schools and districts use a student information system or software to track schedules, contact information, contact logs, and school pictures. These programs make it easy to create a seating chart using students' school pictures, making it easy for you to remember names and faces. If you'd like to be even more covert when learning names, instead of printing out the roster with the pictures, keep their seating chart up on your computer and glance down at it when you need to.
Tip #7 - Make it a project.
If you don't have a student information management system, why not empower students to be creative while helping you at the same time? Have students do a selfie project! Since they are all fancy and know the tricks, have them add their name and period to the image, then turn them in via Google Docs, email, or any other LMS system you use. You can even take it a step further and post the Selfie Project on your classroom wall to help everyone learn each other's names! It helps create a community in the classroom, especially in schools with a large student body.
What helps you remember students' names? We'd love to hear your ideas!