5 teacher memory tricks for learning students' names

Brand-new classes mean a lot of brand-new names. Grainne Hallahan offers her tried-and-tested memory tricks for remembering them

Guess Who learn names back to school

It may not surprise you to learn that none of my teachers ever forgot my name.

When your parents gift you with an unusual name, you soon get used to correcting the pronunciation ("You say it 'grawn-ya', Miss") and they tend to remember it.

But when I became a teacher, I found my memory for names wasn't so great.


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Learning names is one of the most critical steps in instilling good behaviour and positive relationships in your classes, so you just have to get better at it. 

Here are my tried-and-tested methods:

1. Get the backstory

The first homework I used to set was finding out why that child has their name, or the meaning behind their name.

Then in the next lesson, the students would share their stories with the class. This takes a little bit of time but it's definitely worth it, not just to improve recall but to bond a little with your new students.

2. Say your name, say your name

A good rule to put in place for the first few weeks is that every student must say their name before giving an answer in class. 

The more you hear a name and the more you use a name, the more it will stick in your memory.

3. Embrace the seating plan

Keep checking the seating plan. By constantly referring to it, you will remember students' names and where they sit (which has the added bonus of preventing the cheeky "let's switch seats and see if the teacher notices" malarkey that you sometimes get in the first few weeks).

4. Wear it with pride

For the primary school teachers who are taking year groups at transition points, you may have classes where the students are learning each others' names too. 

Handing out name badges to be worn for the first few days will help you all.

5. Tell them it's OK to correct you

One of the worst things is when you incorrectly learn a student's name. Just like any newly learned fact, you'll struggle to relearn the misconception, and end up forever tripping over yourself when you try to call on the student.

From the first lesson, make it clear that you don't mind being corrected if you get it wrong, and make sure the pronunciation you're using is the right one!

Grainne Hallahan taught English in secondary schools in Essex for 10 years

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