Three Tricks to Learning Students’ Names

I pride myself in knowing all of my student’s names by the end of the first week of class. This is no easy task because I typically have 180 students a semester. Each year I think, “How am I going to do this again” and then somehow I manage to do it. Here are my tricks:

  • I match them up with a partner, and provide them with a list of off the wall questions. Questions like: “How long can you hold your breath?” “What are your thoughts on pears?” and “If you could change your name, for safety reasons, what would it be?” They have to interview their partner with that list of silly six questions. Then the students introduce their new friend by choosing and sharing three of the questions. I sit in the back of the classroom, and one by one the groups go up. As they introduce themselves, I sit in the back and laugh and cheer. Then I say, “Okay, gang, what were their names?” and we all repeat them back, and clap.
  • When the first class period is over, I throw as many elbows as I can to get to the door first. Then, as they are leaving, I say something like, “Thank you for coming to class today Terrell” and if I don’t have their name I say, “Thank you for coming to class today, purple shirt…what’s your name again?” I do this with all of them.
  • I try to use their name in the hallway if I see them, even if it’s the wrong one. They know I’m trying, and they will correct me.

I’m not the most organized of people, so seating charts don’t work for me, but conversation and getting to know little funny things about them allows me to lock those names in fairly quickly.


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English Instructor at Southwestern Community College Iowa

Kelly Franklin is a full-time English instructor at Southwestern Community College in the hills of southern Iowa, and originally hails from central Illinois. On a typical day, Kelly can be found teaching: Intro to Composition, Research Writing, Technical Writing, Young Adult Literature, Dramatic Literature, and African American Literature. When she isn’t teaching, she can be found in the theater directing the SWCC Drama club, or at home with her four children, three cats, and two dogs. Currently, Kelly’s research interests are centered on feminism in media post-9/11, and gender performance. She is preparing to defend her Doctoral Capstone Project (about reading comprehension at the community college) in the summer of 2017. She is a passionate teacher, and avid Dr. Who fan.


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