First Day Student Names

What would you say if I told you I learn EVERY student’s name on the first day of school?

credit: Canva

Ever know someone who just can’t seem to remember your name? Maybe they call you by the wrong name or maybe they mispronounce your name all the time? Doesn’t feel good, does it?

I really didn’t want that for the kids in my class. I wanted them to LOVE my class from the very first day. It was important to me that they felt respected. I wanted them to go home and say “I really like my teachers and it’s going to be a good year!”

The number one thing I felt I could do to affect this? Get to know everyone ASAP. What’s the first thing you do when you meet someone? Get to know their name.

Now I’m not particularly adept at memorizing names. But I knew how important it was so I needed to figure it out. I knew that it was essential that I got to know every students name, correctly, and fast. So how to go about that?

I planned 3 different activities for the first day of school. The first had students working independently at their desks for 10 minutes. The next was group work for about 15 minutes. Then another group task for 15 minutes. In between I took a minute or two to set up the activities. These activities would put me in the role of facilitator, so I could circulate and practice those names.

credit: Canva

During the first, independent activity, I walked around the room and looked at the names students had written on their papers, and studied each child’s face. I asked them how to pronounce their names and practiced saying them correctly. I would visit a group and practice all 4 names at that group until I said them correctly and knew who was who. I kept repeating the names over and over to myself.

Then I would walk to the next group and do the same. Once I knew their 4 names, I would pause and look back at the first group, repeating their names and then the 4 names from the new group.

Next I would move on to the third group and repeat the process. Once I knew their names, I would look back at the first and second groups and recite all their names again, followed by the third group. And so on and so on.

I would pause when necessary to give new instructions for our next activity and then continue to practice. I announced to the class that if they heard me mumbling names to myself not to worry, I was just practicing their names.

Once I felt like I had the majority of names down, I stood off to the side and recited names to myself, looking at each student and saying their name. If I was stuck on anyone, I would walk over and check their name and practice again.

Finally, at the end of the period, after all the activities were completed, I would ask for everyone’s attention. I would announce that I was going to try to recite everyone’s name and I apologized in advance and asked for grace if I made any mistakes. When we all got quiet, I would start at the beginning and recite all the names, looking each student in the eye, until I finished the whole room.

The kids would always clap and were so surprised and happy that I could get to know all their names so quickly. They saw it as a sign of respect that I would work so hard to get to know their names. I’m not, generally, exceptional with getting to know anyone’s name. It was just that I worked at it and focused on it so hard on the first day. I must have recited those names 100 times before my final performance.

I needed to keep seating the same for another day to get all the names solid before I could switch seats. After that, it was all good.

I have a name that isn’t easy to spell or pronounce, and I’m fairly easy going about it. But it always means so much to me when someone really tries to get it right. I just wanted my kids to feel that they were important and I had the respect to get to know them as fast as possible.

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