Learning your students' names can be challenging, but it is a powerful way to motivate and encourage them. Try these strategies to help you learn more of your students' names.
I download my students' pictures, names, and personal survey information into my Outlook account. Then any time I receive an email from them or talk to them on the phone, I can see their picture so I know who I am communicating with.
~A BYU professor
When an instructor uses students' names, students are more likely to feel accepted and supported in their efforts to learn. They get the message that the instructor regards them as part of his/her community of scholars. Additionally, students see instructors who learn their names as more caring and approachable (Davis 2009; Nilson 2010; Svinicki and McKeachie 2006).
So how can you learn dozens of students' names? Naturally, people’s success in memorizing names varies, and in some large classes, it may not be feasible to learn every student’s name. Nevertheless, you can employ proven strategies to learn names more efficiently and to increase the number of names you learn. The next time you’re anticipating a classroom full of unknown faces, try some of these simple and effective strategies.
- Use BYU Flashcards to practice the names of your students by looking at their faces and their names. Review the flashcards often. You can practice on your computer, your iPhone, or by printing the flashcards.
- Also try enhancing the functionality of your Outlook mail with Xobni, an Outlook Plugin that automatically creates profiles for each contact you communicate with. Xobni can thread emails from a student into one conversation and also display their picture and contact information. Download Xobni for free at http://www.xobni.com/.
- Ask students to wear name tags or put name cards on their desks for the first few weeks of the semester.
- Play name memorization games with your students. This helps you learn their names and helps your students learn each other’s name.
- Create a discussion board in Blackboard or another online location and invite the students to submit a current photo or introductory video so you can remember them more easily by their interests, hometowns, majors, etc.
- Take roll in every class.
- Ask for reminders if you forget names.
- Call each student by name as you hand back assignments.
- Ask students to say their name before asking a question or making a comment while participating in class discussions.
- Call students by name when you respond to their comments and questions.
Davis, Barbara Gross. Tools for Teaching. 2nd Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009.
Nilson, Linda B. Teaching at its Best: A Research-Based Resource for college Instructors. 3rd Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010.
Svinicki, Marilla and Wilbert J. McKeachie. McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers. 13th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2006.