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A Student by any Other Name

I have a confession.  I am terrible with students’ names.  I can’t remember them.  I really struggle.  I’ve tried everything.  I think I have finally found a fix for me.  It does involve some work, but if you are like me, you are willing to put in the work so as not to embarrass yourself in front of the students.

On the first day of class, I have each student make a name tag out of construction paper.  I have the students write their first name in large letters and draw a few items around their name that help to define them.  Here is my example:

I then give the students an activity to work on and I go around with the camera and take their pictures.  (I’ve only had one class think this was creepy.)  I collect the nametags and hand them out the next day.  After school, I make a trip to WalGreens and print the photos.  I separate them into classes.  I now have flashcards to work with.  These flashcards stay with me for the next several days.  If I’m at the YMCA on the treadmill, I have the flashcards.  While watching Fringe, I have the flashcards.  Any spare moment during the week, I’m reviewing the flashcards.  After about a week of photo flashcards, I have the names down pat.

My Stack of Flashcards

I keep the photos for a few reasons.  First, after the students leave my class, I often forget some of them.  They are still students at the school and if I ever need to remember a name or face, I have a way to do it.  Second, when we are doing activities in class that involve random groups or volunteers, I pull out the photos and draw them like they are a deck of cards.  The students love this. 

There’s an app for that:

I have to give credit to my fellow teacher and blog follower, Ann Pickens for bringing this activity into modern times.  She did the same activity, but took the pictures with her cell phone.  She now has instant access to the photos on her phone and can flip through them at any time.

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Categories: General
  1. January 17, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    I do something similar in my graduate and college senior classes, but I put the pictures on the class web page (with their permission) so that the students can learn each other’s names as well. Other faculty in the department have also found the class web page useful for learning who the new students are each year.

    • January 17, 2011 at 8:34 pm

      I love that idea. It always shocks me as to how many students don’t know each other. After months in class, I will have a student say, “You know, that girl that sits back there. I don’t know her name.” Shocking and sad! Thanks for sharing.

      • January 18, 2011 at 12:38 am

        You have to be careful about privacy laws. With adults at college, all I need is the permission of the students, but for K-12 there are usually more restrictive rules about posting student pictures.

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