My favourite quote describes education as ‘sharing ideas through relationships’ and for me relationships begin with knowing all the children’s names. I teach several hundred students per week so learning names is an important skill to master.
It is much easier to learn the names of my 10 and 11 year old learners. There are many games they can play using names, many subtle social clues I can give to prompt them to remind me if needed and lots of conversation happening. Usually most students in these classes know each others names already. It’s only me that really needs to learn.
Compare this with my 3 year old learners. At the beginning of the year, some may rarely speak to anyone, never mind to a new music teacher. They may speak so softly that it is hard to make out what they are saying. They may not be able to wait whilst I go through the register which is something I do to help with older children.
Here are my best tips for younger and older learners at the beginning of the year.
- Take a register each lesson – this helps so much
- At the beginning of the year have children sit in the same place each lesson
- Play name games (see examples below)
- I introduce students to other students. “Jon, have you met Lisa? Lisa this is Jon”. Students find this hilarious
- I learn all the names right in the first class and go round the circle and correctly (usually) name each student. This does not stick all week until the next lesson of course but is a good start. It also shows the students that I value my relationship with them. I keep doing this for 3-4 weeks until I’ve got it.
- Have a picture register available for all children and use it every lesson. My school (Bangkok Patana School) has an awesome ‘picture report’ facility where I can print all names and pictures on 2 sides of A4 per class.
- Publicly challenge yourself to learn all their names (I usually give myself 4 weeks). The way I do this is that after 4 weeks, I invite the children to challenge me to say their name. If I say their name correctly, then they owe me a ‘job’ (putting an instrument away or other classroom duty). If I cannot name them correctly, then I give them first place in the line, or some other privilege or reward point.
Younger learners (a whole different kettle of fish!)
- Have a picture register available for all children and use it every lesson. My school (Bangkok Patana School) has an awesome ‘picture report’ facility where I can print all names and pictures on 2 sides of A4 per class (repeated from above).
- Privately review names using the picture report for 1 minute before starting class
- Pick 2-3 names to focus on during each particular session. Make a point to use those names judiciously during that session.
- Use lots of name games at the beginning of the year (see examples). Prime the teaching assistants to help fill in the names where appropriate. This helps everyone.
Some people like to use name labels. For me, it sometimes helps with the little ones in the beginning but on the whole I prefer not to use them. I tend to look at the name label rather than the person and then this tends to hinder the whole process. If it works for you though I say go for it.
Name games and songs
- Up the Ladder – can be used as a song or a chant. Y2-6
- Bounce High Bounce Low – use student names instead of ‘Shi-loh’ K-3
- Bee Bee Bumble Bee – free registration and 5 credits at mysongfile.com – follow the link. K- 2
- Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar? Y2-5
- Charlie over the Ocean (substitute children’s names each time) (Y2-4)
- I can keep the beat! (“I can keep the beat, and I can say your name, sitting next to ___ is , (echo).”) (Y2-4)
- Concentration (see below) (Y4-6)