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Learn names fast

Behaviour Management

Learn names fast

a guide for classroom teachers and teacher aides

Image of an educator at the front of a classroom selecting a student to answer a question.

The sooner the teacher can learn a student’s name, the sooner the process of developing rapport can really begin.

Here is the one thing you can do to cut behavioural issues in half – learn names and learn them fast. Ever wondered why teachers had you write your name on everything when you were in school – on rulers, erasers, the top of every page? One reason is obvious: so the owner can be identified, and belongings don’t magically disappear. There is a second reason however, and that is so teachers can learn and use the names of their students from day 1.

Learning someone’s name is a sign of respect and a social signal that he or she is important. The sooner the teacher can learn a student’s name, the sooner the process of developing rapport can really begin. When moving around the room of your new class, look for names on pencil cases, books, worksheets and anything else in view. See a name as you pass, remember it, and then from the other side of the room say, ‘Jafari, how are you going with question 3? Isabis, what about you?’ Students will freak out!

Hint: Have students write their name on every piece of paper as a matter of habit. This makes it easier for the teacher who can move around the room and more easily locate and use names.

Teachers can also use seating plans to learn names when they are new to a class. When students are not in a seating plan, a piece of paper can be passed around the room so each person can print their name to make a list. This is a more ‘adultish’ way of ‘taking the roll’ and it’s also great for older teenagers as well. The list of names can be used to match names with faces. For example, the third person on the list is 3 desks from the teacher. The teacher can use code to record a unique characteristic of several individuals or their position in the room. Each group or row can be circled for easy reference. This takes no more than a few seconds but is an invaluable aid when working with unfamiliar students. Once the list returns, now comes the fun part. As the teacher works from any position in the room with the list in hand, it’s easy to identify and call out any students who are off-task. They will ask with surprise and curiosity, ‘how do you know my name?’

Another useful tip is to learn 4 or 5 names in the first few minutes of the lesson. Students will know each other already and you can pick up a name or two by listening to their interactions. Ask questions such as, ‘where are you up to Noah?’. Students will then assume that you know everybody’s name. They will wonder with astonishment and ponder where you got your information from – you can always let them know that you have ‘psychic abilities’ or that you work for the FBI – when they don’t believe you, stick with your story even under the intense interrogation that follows. This game is ideal for relief or casual staff who work in unfamiliar classes almost every day. It’s also a great way to win them over early and to break the ice. Students also learn that you are ‘on the ball’ and are less likely to test the boundaries because by knowing names you are carrying out your work as if you are the main class teacher.

Hint: Games aside, this technique does actually help with behavioural issues because it is more difficult to address problems when you don’t know a student’s name. Getting a student’s attention is especially difficult when you don’t know their name. Also, not knowing someone’s name gives that person a level of anonymity – they are more likely to push boundaries and knowingly break the rules when they can’t be easily identified.

About the author

Image of the managing director of ITAC.


Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.

Source: Behaviour Management Skills and Strategies for the Modern Classroom: 100+ research-based strategies for both novice and experienced practitioners.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to check his article for accuracy, information may be outdated, inaccurate or not relevant to you and your location/employer/contract. It is not intended as legal or professional advice. Users should seek expert advice such as by contacting the relevant education department, should make their own enquiries, and should not rely on any of the information provided.


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