Learning Students' Names

At the beginning of the course you need to learn students’ names as soon as possible. Using names to call on students creates a more personal and involving atmosphere in the class, and also allows you to monitor progress much more effectively. The students should know each others’ names too. How can you achieve this quickly and easily? If you have very small classes there’s no problem, but with average to large numbers it becomes more difficult. Here are some ideas for average size classes (5-15 students) :
  • Before the first lesson, familiarise yourself with the names on the register. That way you don’t have to learn the names when you go into the class – you just have to connect them with the faces. If you’re a new teacher in a country where you don’t know the language, ask a colleague to explain the correct pronunciation to you before the class, and write it in phonemic script. The evening after the lesson, and every day before the next, go through the names again and try to remember the faces.
  • At the beginning of the first lesson, as all the students to write their names in large letters and felt tip pen on a “name tent” – piece of A4 paper folded in three - and to put it in front of them for the first few lessons. Each time you call on a student, make a point of using their name. Keep the name tents and redistribute them at the beginning of every lesson until you're sure you know students' names.
  • With beginners, teach Hello, my name’s …. immediately and in the first lesson play a circle game with a bean bag or sponge ball – student A says My name’s Michelle and throws the ball to another student who says Hello Michelle, my name’s Sergei.
  • In later lessons with beginners’ classes, the name tents can be used to present the interrogative and practise the negative of the verb BE.
    a) For the interrogative, collect in the name tents and then redistribute them asking (wrongly) Is your name Michelle? The student replies No, my name’s Sergei. After four or five questions ask the students what you said (if you can’t or don’t want to use the L1, put on the board ---------- ----------- ---------- Michelle? And use gesture to show that you want them to tell you the missing words.) Once they’ve understood the SV inversion in the question, set up a chain drill. Give student A a name tent. S/he asks student B Is your name XXX? Student B replies No, my name’s YYY, then takes the name tent and asks student C. This continues until student G says Yes, my name’s XXX. The teacher then gives student G the next name tent and the chain drill continues.
    b) To practise the negative, the lesson after it has been presented, start by distributing the name tents incorrectly. Each student corrects you saying Sorry, my name isn’t XXX. It’s YYY. and gets the correct name tent.
  • With intermediate + classes you can use more complex activities. For example :
    a) right at the beginning of the class, introduce yourself and then ask the students to stand up and arrange themselves in alphabetical order (of first name if that’s what they’re going to be using in the class). To do this they obviously have to ask each other their names. The line then forms into a circle so that the first and last people in the line are next to each other. Ask the students to memorise the names of the people on each side of them. Later on in the lesson, in a break between activities, ask each student to indicate the two students who were next to them and to say their names.
    b) ask the students to sit in a circle. Each student introduces her/himself and gives one interesting piece of information about himself. The next student repeats the name of the first, and the interesting fact, and then adds their own introduction : You’re Sergei and you once rode a camel in the desert. I’m Michelle and I have ten cats. Student three repeats the names and information of the first two before adding his/her own, and so on. The last person in the chain is the teacher, who repeats the names and information for the whole class.
  • For more advanced students, ask them their names and then list vertically on the board the initial of each name – S, M etc. Give students five minutes in pairs to brainstorm every adjective they can think of beginning with those letters – if possible give each pair a dictionary to consult. While they’re working think of a few positive ones yourself. Elicit their suggestions, and add your own if necessary. At the end, ask each student to choose one adjective beginning with the same letter as their name to describe themselves : Stupendous Sergei, Magnetic Michelle and so on. They can then write this on their name tents.

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