A First-Day Activity--Learning Students' Names

(Go back to Class activities & demos. Or go back to the home page.)

If your class is somewhat large (e.g. 30+ students), sometimes it takes time to learn students' names. But students appreciate your doing so at the beginning of a course as promptly as possible!

Here is one simple way to learn their names quickly:
  1. Have each student write his/her name legibly on a 3 x 5 " card.
  2. Collect the cards in the same sequence in which students are seated.
  3. Beginning with the first card and student, say the student's name clearly and deliberately while looking intently in the student's eyes. (Ask for corrections if you mispronounce a name.)
  4. Continue around the class, one student and card at a time. Periodically review the students and cards that you have already "met" by restating their names and faces.
  5. When you have met all students, review the entire class by restating their names and faces.
  6. Accept all corrections and reminders from students good-naturedly. Bravely insist on taking whatever time is needed to cover the entire class with this procedure. Your intention will be clear--to begin creating distinct identities for each student. That is what will matter.
  7. Later in class, as well as periodically after class, review the deck of name cards, trying to remember what each student looked like as you say the student's name again--and again.

Variation: If the above is too easy for you, try mixing up the cards before you review the cards a second time, or (even harder) ask students to move to different seats later during the first class, if not also for the second class session.

Second variation: At the first class, take "mug shot" photographs of the head and shoulders of each student. Have each student make a very large name tag (at least two feet wide and with letters about 3-4 inches tall) to hold in front of him/her when the picture is taken. If you use a digital camera, the pictures can be printed as thumbnails on just one or two sheets of paper. You can review the thumbnails whenever you get a chance--e.g. after class, but even also during class when students are otherwise occupied with some task. (Caution: even though the photos may make it easier to learn names, the photos can still be deceptive if and when students gradually change hairdos or clothing styles!)

- Seifert Seifert May 12, 2010