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Teaching Strategies for Remembering Names

Janelle Cox

Learning and remembering every single one of your students’ names is not an easy feat, but it is necessary if you want them to respect you. I remember hearing that memory wasn’t something that you have, but it’s something that you learn. So when I started student teaching in college, I tried to train my brain to remember each student’s name. I began by greeting students by their name and using their name frequently because I heard it was one the best ways to help you remember their names. While it was an effective way, I wanted to try out a variety of different teaching strategies to help me remember my students’ names quickly. Here are a few of the best teaching strategies that I found.

Teaching Strategies: Greet Students at the Door

As mentioned earlier, one of best teaching strategies that you can do to help you remember students’ names is to greet them at the door as they enter the classroom. Shake their hands, give them a high-five, or a simple fist bump as you say there name. Memory experts suggest using the name once you learn it, then keep using it over and over. For example, instead of saying “Good morning” to Joe, say “Good morning, Joe!” The more you use the name, the better you will remember it.

Use Students’ Names throughout the Day

Instead of just pointing at students when you call on them, say their name, too. For example, you can say, “What do you think the answer is, Joe?” Then after “Joe” answers, say “Thank you for your response, Joe!” The more you use the students’ name, the better you will be at remembering them. While it may feel weird to you to constantly say their name, as well as sound weird to your students, reusing their names frequently will help you remember them. Just point out to your students that you are trying to remember their names and it may sound silly for a while until you learn them all.

Use a Seating Chart

Creating and using a seating chart is another great way to help you remember students’ names. It’s also an easy way to see if everyone is in attendance. Try creating a seating chart that has a picture of each student’s face and as well as where they sit in the classroom. An easy way to do this is to use the website Super Teacher Tools. This website is free and allows you to create a picture seating chart in a matter of minutes. It’s also iPad friendly, so all you have to do is use your iPad to gain access to your custom seating chart each morning.

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Play the Memory Game

Do you remember playing the game Memory when you were a child? This is when you had a deck of cards or pictures facing down and you had to choose two of them at a time to create a match. To help you remember your students’ names, all you have to do is take a photo of each student and duplicate them. Then, lay them out on the table face down and play the game Memory. It’s an easy and effective way to help you remember your students’ names quickly.

Name Tags and Name Cards

If you don’t like the idea of going through the hassle of taking your students’ photograph, downloading an app, or playing the game “Memory,” then you can take the traditional route and create name tags and name cards to help you remember their names. While this may not sound as fun as the other teaching strategies mentioned, it is an effective method that has been used for decades in classrooms all over the world.

Use a Mnemonic Device or Alliteration

Wordplay is another great way to remember names. Try using a mnemonic device to help you remember a name like “Brae likes to play with clay,” or an alliteration like “Jumping Jack.”

Associate the Name with a Feature

Pick out a feature on the student and try and associate that with their name. For example, if you notice that Helen has nice hair, that’s how you’ll remember her. Or, if whenever you see “Eddy,” you notice his blue eyes, so you’ll remember him by thinking, “Eddy with the blue eyes.” Connecting a name to a visual trait is a great way to help anchor the name in your head.

At the end of each day, try and take a moment to sit and think about the names and faces of your students. By going over them, it will help to input them into your long-term memory.

Do you have any tips, tricks, or teaching strategies for remembering your students’ names quickly? Please feel free to share with us in the comment section below, we’d love to hear your ideas.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.