Note Cards: Distribute note cards to each of your students. On the blank side, have them print their name largely and legibly. On the lined side, have them write information that will be important for you to know and helpful for you to remember their names and their background. You could include name, email address, nicknames, hometown, birthplace, clubs/sports, church, favorite school subject, etc. You can use these cards later on to randomly select students to participate in discussions, answer questions, or making sure each student participates at least once by setting the cards down after the student speaks.
Desk Name Tag/Tent: Teacher stores have a number of desk name tags/tents for sale. Or you could distribute some cardboard paper or use regular printer paper to create nametags-tents for their desks. Younger students like to have their names on their desks at all times especially if the desks are used to store personal belongings.
Seating Chart: I always felt that assigning seats alphabetically right from the start was the most effective way for me to remember student’s names especially in the years I had over 100 students. If you set this precedent early, then when you need to adjust the seating chart to take behavior problems into account, it will go over much easier with the students.
First-day of School Activities
Class Introductions: Have each student stand up, say their name and some additional information about themselves (refer to note cards). When they introduce themselves, ask them to elaborate on something they said. Show interest and turn it back to the class: “has anyone else had the same experience?”
Adjective Name-game: This is a quick lesson in alliteration as well. Have each student introduce themselves with an adjective that begins with the same letter as their first name. For example: “Hello, my name is Joyful Jared.” You could also ask them to use animals they would like to be (Jared the Jaguar) or professions (Jared the Juggler).
Scavenger Hunt: Create or copy a student scavenger hunt to get the students up and out of their seats. Give them a 5 minute time limit to get signatures from other students in the class. Make the rule that they can only get one signature per person. For an example of a scavenger hunt see Enchanted Learning.
Student Interview: Have students pair up to interview each other. Give them 2-3 questions to guide the interview. For instance, what club/sports do you participate in? What is your favorite thing to do to have fun? What was the best thing you did this summer? Etc. Also, make sure that the pairs come up with one thing that they have in common. Have each student introduce the person they interviewed to the class telling them about the things he or she learned in the interview.
Other Tips for Learning New Names:
Say the students’ names out-loud as often as you can
- Visualize their names in writing or visualize yourself writing the name
- Image their names are written on their foreheads
- Get to know the students before and after class begins
- Visualize their faces when you grade their first assignments
Some other great ideas can be found at:
- Education World: Back to School
- Education World: Getting to Know You: Activities for the First Day of School
- Education World: Fourteen Great Activities for the First Day of School!
- Scholastic: Top 5 Ways to Get to Know Your Students