This has to be, hands-down, one of the largest hurdles for any elementary specialist: learning all of the names of the students. If you’re new to a building, it’s especially daunting when looking at 300-700+ names to learn IN ONE YEAR.
These are some tricks that might help in learning names.
THE NAME SONG:
This works best with young learners: preK / K / 1. I learned this from Stephanie, the best music teacher ever. Start by making sure each child has an assigned seat. Using index cards for each child pre-placed on the floor works, as does taking a photo of where students sit Week 1 and projecting it on a white board/screen for students to see as they walk in (see below). Having assigned seats alleviates drama in locating a space, gives a set way to begin class as the children walk in, and helps me (and them!) to learn names. Sitting in the same spot each week trains my brain to remember their names much faster.
Then, the song. It’s pretty simple: a call-and-response. I sing: “Hello, ____”. They respond: “Hello, Mrs. Arika”. Some weeks, I toss a squishy ball to the student I’m singing to. Some weeks, I hand out/collect name cards to help train my brain. And some weeks, we simply sing the song, no props involved. Here’s a peek of how it looks with a K class:
In library, students have use individual library passes to check out. The pass has their full name and barcode. Handing them out one by one is a way to learn names. See the student’s name, say the name, see the student, hand student the pass. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I do this for all grades for at least the first 10 weeks of the year.
- this works best if you check with teachers regarding nicknames before the first library class. Jot any nicknames on the appropriate pass. Students will appreciate this!
- library passes can double as shelf-markers!
- sorting passes by color/grade level is ideal. Here, brown = grade 4.
- store passes by day of the week they come to library, if possible.
- a veteran tip: if students have names that are difficult for you to pronounce – do not write your hint to pronunciation on their library pass! Write it on a sticky note that you remove, put it on your lesson notes, jot it on a class list that only you see…but try to keep your guide to pronunciation to yourself. As someone with a name that is atypical, seeing my name written ‘Erica’ made me feel different and less than myself.
- and when a name gets mispronounced – it will happen – I do this: quickly apologize and say that I’m learning, then pronounce the name correctly. The only person allowed to correct me is the person whose name I’ve messed up – not the entire class.
Want to learn names AND make your students responsible for remembering where they sit each week? Take a name photo! Week 1, lay out cards with each student’s name in the approximate area where they’ll sit each week in library (yes, assigned seats – this really helps them have a set “spot” and helps your brain learn names). When they sit down, have them hold up their name card and take a photo. Print all photos and put them into a notebook for weekly reference / sub plans. In Week 2/3/4, project the seating chart photos on the whiteboard/TV for students to reference when they come in and state that they forget where they sit or insist they sit in a different spot. There’s little argument to be had with photo evidence. 🙂
Do students move or change seating spots throughout the year? Yes, of course. Kids move in and out, relationships change, learning accommodations must be met – so seating plans must be flexible. This photo of library spots is about 85% accurate from Aug 2018 – Feb 2019.
If you’ve got other ways to learn names in the elementary library, please share them in the comments. We learn best when we share and learn with one another!
Cheers, y’all! –arika