Why is it important for teachers to remember the names of learners and to always call students by their names? In this article, we will look at the reason for using names, at the challenge facing educators, and how teachers can quickly learn the names of new pupils. We also discuss why ESL teachers in particular use nicknames for students.
The reason for using names
Science shows us that there are serious reasons for addressing people by their first names as it activates a response in the brain. A name is a person’s core identity and personality marker.
So, remembering and using the names of students frequently when addressing them is more than a courtesy! New research shows the scientific importance of people’s names as core identity and personality markers. So, it is about much more than just creating a more personal connection with a student.
It makes people feel good to hear their name, and they pay greater attention. Studies show that hearing our name activates our brain, even when it’s spoken in a noisy room. Using the name of a student usually compels them to respond positively as a natural reaction.
The challenge facing educators
If you’re teaching Elementary level with only one class of 20 to 30 students, remembering their names can be easily done in a day or two. Teachers at High and Middle school, however, have many students to remember because their classes rotate, but usually, they only have to memorize the names of new students, making the task less daunting.
However, new teachers at a school have to learn the names of the teaching staff, admin personnel, and a few hundred children. In such a case memorizing many names can take a long time.
Some ESL teachers overseas have to teach at a different school each day of the week, doing five classes with students with names that are often very difficult to pronounce, which is why using nicknames is customary.
Techniques to remember names
The following tips and techniques will help teachers to memorize many names in a short period of time.
- When meeting new students for the first time, let them tell you their names, say it back to them, and confirm that your pronunciation is correct. (This can sometimes be tricky when teaching abroad.)
- In the first week make a habit of greeting students by name as they enter the classroom and if you struggle to recall a name, ask for a hint and then let other learners. Keep it light-hearted, students will appreciate your honesty and that you are trying to memorize their names.
- Let students each sit at the same desk each day in class unless you move them. This not only makes it easier to remember their names, associating them with where they sit, but it’s also good for classroom management – you must dominate the class as your space.
- Use classroom activities to learn more about students and in so doing remember their names more easily. ‘Introducing My Friend’ is a good classroom activity. Let students work in pairs. They must exchange information and then introduce each other to the class. Students are much less shy when they talk about their friends than themselves.
- Another classroom activity is to put students in teams and then challenge them to arrange them from tall to short, then from young to old, then alphabetically on their first names, then on their family names (surnames/ last names), and phone numbers. Take down the time that it takes each team to complete each task, then let them repeat the exercise the next day.
- Another good technique is to take classroom pictures of students on the first day and then with the help of your class register and the fact that you have nominated their seating arrangement, study the picture and in this way memorize their names.
So, having memorized the names of all your students, use it frequently and make a habit of always using people’s names when addressing them.