Learning Students’ Names and Improving Classroom Management

Learning students' names - not only are you building relationships, but you are also improving classroom management.

Learning students’ names will improve your classroom management.

The start of any school year can feel like a scramble, a constant question of how do I handle all of this?

Don’t lose track of learning students’ names in the business. Not only will you build relationships with students by learning their names, you will also improve your classroom management. To students, you appear “on point” and in control. You are establishing your credibility.

For years, I knew all this on some level. I struggled to learn names; I still do outside the classroom!

With practice, I learned tricks. I now apply my knowledge of learning strategies to learn students’ names. This is how I do it, and I mold my classroom management from the very start of the school year.

Learning students' names - not only are you building relationships, but you are also improving classroom management.

  1. Use repetition; tell and show students that you are trying. I personally remember more when I physically write than when I electronically arrange a seating chart. I do both, but the physical writing helps me the most, and that is the copy I carry around the classroom. When I form groups or partners, I write students’ names. Recording book numbers? Learning students’ names. I deliberately tell students that I am bringing the seating chart with me, that I struggle to remember names, and that I’m trying. This has side effects: 1) Students know I care and want to invest in them, and 2) I’m modeling for students how to persevere through a learning struggle. These effects eventually create classroom community (and therefore better classroom management).
  2. Chunk them: learn a few at a time. Make a goal for yourself to learn five names per day (for instance).
    As you return papers or call students for conferencing, say their name to yourself. Repeat it. Yes, I feel goofy doing this. Yes, it works.
  3. Connect their names to prior knowledge. This can be as simple as a student having a familiar name or dressing like someone you know. You build relationships and tie that new knowledge to previous knowledge. Look:
    Band kids? I was one.
    As I build relationships with students, this naturally comes up—especially in August and September as marching band monopolizes student discussions. After students share what instrument they play and their favorite parts of band, I connect that to what I remember and understand. And then, I remember their names. You weren’t in band? You can start somewhere. Think: what prior knowledge could you connect to some of your students’ names? A sport, a favorite movie, a love of office supplies? All of those have happened with me, and it is how I began to learn students’ names.

These methods might be goofy, and I feel a bit silly writing these down. I am terrible at learning students names (anyone, actually), and these methods help me. I’ve made learning students’ names part of my classroom management plan and seen benefits.

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