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Do You Even Know My Name Professor?
5 Ways To Learn Your Students Names Faster
Por Kenneth R. LaBrant, II, Ph.D.
Número 21

Perhaps 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 with you.

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 their faces!

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!

Kenneth R. LaBrant, II, Ph.D.
Department of Classical Modern Languages
Troy State University