R. LaBrant, II, Ph.D.
one of the most important points to remember when you teach a class
that is not too large (less than 50 students) is to memorize the
students names. I have done this in each and every one of my classes
and I have had a more enjoyable experience by doing so. The students
appreciate this a whole lot more and are even taken back that a
professor would take the time to learn names and even remember their
name outside of class, like at the local market. There are several
ways to learn names faster and easier and I'll share a few ways
First, I begin by having the students fill out information sheets
about themselves. I not only want to know what their major is and
what their minor is, why they are taking this course and what they
hope to get out of this course, I also want to know who they are
and what they look like. I ask the student to tell me a little about
themselves. I want to know their likes and dislikes and I want to
know their favorite music, foods, and phrases or sayings. I often
put these on the board, excluding names of course, and show the
most popular of each item for the class. Perhaps the class, as a
majority, prefers rap music. I point this out to the class. The
class starts to learn about each other and about me, because I share
with the class my preferences as well. They usually ask anyway!
I ask for a brief description of what they look like and any other
name they may go by. This way I can begin to find them in class
a lot easier.
Second, I have the students go around class and introduce themselves
to the entire class. They can sit or stand. The introductions are
short and simple. We want to know their names, their majors, where
they are from, and one other thing they would like to share with
the class. In a larger class (50 students) this could take the enter
class, but I believe it is well worth the time. The students enjoy
it and they start to relax a bit more. Also, this gives you an opportunity
to put names with faces.
Third, it is easier for me to remember names when I can see all
of the faces in the class. I arrange my class in a semi-circle.
Each student can see me easily and I can see the students quite
well. The students can then interact with me much easier and feel
free to ask questions. No one can hide out in the back of class
and no one is left out from discussion. No one has a bad seat and
can't see the board. Learning names is much easier when you see
Fourth, I play a game on the second day of class. This is a 5-10
minute game. You probably have played it at socials or get togethers.
Before class you put 30 or so characteristics of a person on the
board. The phrase "Find a Person who
" is to be answered
for all 30 topics. Have the students find students in the class
for whom the corresponding characteristics pertain. They must have
the student sign their sheet of paper and they can only use a person's
name once. For example, find a person who is an accounting major,
etc. I usually make this a competition and see who can get the most
signatures in 5 minutes. I give this person bonus points for their
first quiz. The students, regardless of age, almost always get into
this. You will have two or three who refuse to participate, but
the rest are busy meeting people and getting signatures. The students
can use the professor as well. They can get your signature. The
whole time you are milling about the room and listening to their
investigations and learning their names. The entire game should
take no more than 15 minutes and then you are off to your lesson.
Fifth, I have oral exams in which students come into my office in
groups of two or three for exams by the third week of classes. This
solidifies for me the names I may not have been able to memorize
for one reason or another. I believe oral exams can be used in any
course. It is one more way to let the students express what they
know. It also allows you a chance to get to know them better in
smaller groups away from the mass in class.
You may forget a name or two, but I believe that after two or three
weeks, if you try, you will know their names not only for the semester
but for years to come. They will appreciate your effort greatly
and it will make the class experience wonderful. The students will
let you know when you mess up too. The can tell when you stumble
and call on them and refer to them as "you" or "miss"
or 'mister" or nothing at all. Even if you do mess up and mess
up often, the students will appreciate your effort. A person's name
is said to be one of the most special things for him or her to hear.
You won't be a professor the students talk about and say, "He
doesn't even know our names. We just sit in the back and he does
not care. He always say our name wrong or calls us by the wrong
name". You will be the professor they know by name!
R. LaBrant, II, Ph.D.
Department of Classical