Learning Students' Names

Submitted by Jennifer Brown on

Although students do a lot of small group work (and participate in class discussions), they often don’t know each other’s names – sometimes not even those of their own groups. At the end of the semester, students still ask me who “so and so” is so they can return peer reviewed papers.

During the second half of Fall 2014, I taught a F2F 8-week ENG102 course. To encourage students to learn each other’s names (and help me remember them more quickly), the first class session was spent getting to know each other. After a brief review of major policies, we did a Circle Name Game and Group Puzzle-Solving (see attachment).

Not only did I memorize all my students’ names on the first day, showing my students I care about them, but they also learned each other’s names. Only once all semester did a student ask who “so and so” was. Furthermore, students seemed much more engaged and collaborative throughout the semester. In fact, it was the first semester students stayed after completing peer reviews to talk personally with the writers to explain their comments on essays.

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Average: 3.8 (13 votes)


Peter Turner Tue, 01/13/2015 - 9:43am

Jennifer - I really like this CATS for several reasons. First, I so agree that learning your students' name early on helps to build relationships of respect as well as cultivate community - both crucial to student learning. Second, you resolved your concern regarding this with an innovative games approach. Well done!

Romanie Brooks-Dillon Tue, 01/13/2015 - 10:45am

The first name game was very complex for me, but the second game was more stable for me. I also have a suggestion of using a sitting chart or have each student that answer a question to give thier name 1st prior to answering the question.



Jennifer Brown Tue, 01/13/2015 - 11:02am

In reply to by Romanie Brooks-Dillon

Romanie - You're right: the first activity is complicated. That's actually, I think, what helped everyone learn each other's names.
Using a seating chart is definitely helpful for us to remember names, but how do you think we could use seating charts to help students learn each other's names? I would love to incorporate more ways to help students remember their classmates' names.
Thanks for your feedback!

Bronwen Steele Tue, 01/13/2015 - 10:50am

Jennifer, you are right, learning their names is very important, it conveys respect to the students. I focus on doing this intensely the first couple of weeks and I have students indicate appreciation.

Sylvia Ong Tue, 01/13/2015 - 10:54am

Hi Jennifer,

Creating a comfortable learning environment for everyone starts on Day 1 and I think your two strategies for learning names is great. I may "steal" your idea this semester, because learning student names is also a challenging task for me, especially when you consider how many students we could potentially have (5 classes x 30 students) per semester.  Thank you for sharing.


Valerie Akuna Tue, 01/13/2015 - 10:58am

We like the idea of associating games with learning names -  it's really needed.  We feel that the evidence could be quantifiable if an English assignment was set associated with the activity.  For example, for the first project, students would be required to write a  paragraph to identify commonalities, differences, interests, and observations about their fellow classmate/s.  

Valerie and Meha 

Anil Kapoor Wed, 01/14/2015 - 2:11pm

Im so glad I saw this before the first day of class Im going to try this as well. Great idea!!!

Heather Muns Fri, 02/13/2015 - 11:56pm


This is great.  A simple idea that can have a huge impact on classroom environment.  I have a hard time with student names, especially in my hybrid or fast-track classes.  I'm glad you saw great results with this.

Jennifer Elliott Sat, 02/21/2015 - 10:57am

Thank you for the group-puzzle solving. I did the name circle, and it worked really well. I am glad to have an additional tool.

Sonya Vaughn Sat, 02/21/2015 - 11:06am

I have the students perform activities on the first day of class, but I have not focused on having the students learn each others' names.  I am going to incorporate one of your activities and place more focus on name learning.  I agree that students work with each other better when they get to know each other.

Shawn Gear Sat, 02/21/2015 - 11:14am

I love the circle name game. It is engaging and inclusive for all students. It provides reinforcement for the instructor to learn student names. It also acts as an ice breaker to allow the students to learn their peers.

The Group-Puzzle solving activity: Is the activity something you supply for the groups or do they come up with their own group-puzzle solving topic?

Ernestine Clark Sat, 09/12/2015 - 11:06am

As a music teacher, I do a rhythm chant keeping the steady beat with a name game to learn   the new names. There is lots of repitition so that each student that is in the circle has an opportunity to say it as a solo  and then all the students have to say all the names as well. I assess through observation. This helps me as well as all my students know  each others' names.