Remembering Students’ Names

Q. What are some tips on memorizing the names of students in large classrooms?

L. P., teacher
Hyogo Prefecture

A. This is a great question because mastering students’ names is really an important aspect of teaching. Once the teacher knows the student’s name, it sends a strategic signal to the student that he/she is important to the teacher. To tell the truth, when I was younger, I made it a point to try remember all my students’ names the first day of class. But now after all these years and the thousands of students I have taught, I must confess that it does get more difficult.

Dale Carnegie, the great American public speaking and self-help pioneer, had a great formula for remembering names, namely: commit to learning the name, concentrate on the name, repeat it and make an association between the name and the person’s appearance. For example, one of my university students always wears black nail polish because it’s her favorite color. Her name is Midori (which means green). I remember her name because she likes black although her name means green.

Taking this into consideration, I would suggest doing the following:

*Concentrate on the student’s name and form an impression based on the student’s physical characteristics, which will trigger some way of your remembering the name. For example, if a female student is pretty and her name is Satsuki; try to associate her beauty with the flower. If a male student’s name is Yuuki and he looks strong, then associate him with the concept of courage.

* When you take attendance, after calling the name, look at the student’s face. Use the student’s name to ask a simple question. “Junko, what’s your favorite fruit?”

* Make a seating chart. Write the names of the students and study the students and their names while they are doing some activity. Refer to the chart when you call on students to help you. “Taro, please collect the paper.”

* On the first day of class, have the students write a short and simple self-introduction. Then take a picture of each student and affix it to the self-introduction card and study it in your free time.

* When you pass out papers or tests, call the students’ name and hand them back to the students, saying, “Here you are, Taro.”

* In a nutshell, looking at the student and using the name as often as you can is the quickest way to remember.

Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”? Good teachers should use this to their advantage.