Easy Ways to Learn Student Names at the Beginning of the YearJun 15, 2021
As music teachers, we are responsible for seeing the entire student population every week. Depending on your school size, that can be 500 (or more) names! It can be difficult to learn so many names quickly, especially when you’re new to the building.
I started my current position last school year, after moving from a small school with fewer than 100 students in K-6 to a larger school with around 500 students. It took me what seemed like forever to learn each student’s name. That experience led me to writing out some tips for teachers who need help learning names, and I hope you find them helpful!
Make a seating chart.
Prior to students coming in on the first day of music class, I like to make a seating chart for every class. There are a few ways you can go about this. I prefer to arrange my K-5 students in a semicircle, and my 6-8 students in rows. All grades sit alphabetically by last name in my classroom, but you can set students up however works best for you!
Other ways I have arranged students include alphabetically by first name, by line order, or by student number, depending on what each homeroom teacher uses in his or her classroom.
I utilize my first seating charts for the first few weeks of school, until I learn student names and/or discover what seating arrangements work best for each class. Don’t be afraid to change your seating chart if what you have currently is not working for a class!
2. Greet students at the door using their names.
When students enter my classroom, I like to greet each child using his or her name, followed by asking how he or she is doing, giving a compliment, or asking about how an event went (sporting event, recital, play, or another type of event). Not only does this allow me to use the repetition of the names to learn names quickly, but it also allows me to build relationships with each student by taking a genuine interest in their lives outside of school.
3. Use photographs.
My school’s online gradebook includes student photographs in each child’s data section, which also includes parent contact information, his or her birthday, grades, and attendance information. I try to take five to ten minutes each day at the beginning of the school year to focus on a grade level or particular class, looking at each picture and name. I find that saying each name out loud as I do this allows for more repetition and helps me to learn each name faster.
As a bonus, the online gradebook helps me to associate students with family members, be it a parent on staff at the school, or siblings and cousins that attend. Making these connections helps me to learn who each child is sooner rather than later.
4. Write out students’ preferred names and pronunciations on your roster and seating chart.
Ask each student what their preferred name is (nickname, middle name, etc.) and how that name is pronounced. Make sure you ask about not only their first name, but their last name as well! Write both the preferred name and pronunciation in your roster and seating chart as a reminder to yourself. Make a copy of these items to put these pronunciations and preferred names in your substitute binder, folder, or tub, along with the other important class information.
Remember that learning names takes time! Ask your students for patience as you learn their names, and do the best you can to learn their names. Give yourself grace during this time, and know that you’re going to do a great job!
What do you do to learn student names quickly? Any tips or tricks? Let us know!