How to Learn Children’s Names in September

It’s that time of year again, when teachers are thinking about their new classes, hoping they won’t have too many with the same name, and wondering how they will ever learn all the names if they aren’t all the same.

Seasoned teachers know that there’s nothing really to worry about and that they will learn everyone’s name this year – just as they do every year. NQTs and those about to embark on teacher training courses might be feeling a little more daunted. This is how I do it:

I tell a story along the lines of The Enormous Turnip but about a person who got their hat stuck on their head because it was too small – and I take a flamboyant hat along to use as a prop. I’m a languages teacher, so I do this in French, but it will work in English too.

I call out the children one by one, and each time I retell the story I repeat the names of all the children in the line as well as those who are still watching. Eg: Jack B, Chloe, Izzy, Jade S and Jack C pulled and pulled and pulled, but the hat was still stuck. Dale, Hassan, Jack H, Jade  W, Millie, Ahmina etc were all laughing at them, so they called Hassan up to help.

Everyone joins in with the story, so even those sitting down waiting their turn to join in are repeating the words to the story and calling out the names (useful if you have a blank as there are 29 other children saying each other’s names!).

It’s quite time-consuming – you need to set aside a good 15-20 minutes – but by the time you have called the last person up , the hat has come off and everyone has pretended to fall over, you’ve repeated everyone’s name so many times that you know you’ll never ever forget them!

For me, it’s worth investing the time because I usually teach several classes in several schools so by the end of the first week I need to have learnt well over 300 names!  If you want to give it a go, bear in mind that it needs a lot of space so you will either need to clear all the tables away or better still book the hall! It’s a good opportunity to reinforce behaviour too, with plenty of praise for the children sensibly waiting their turn.

If you don’t have the time or the space to spare, or you don’t like the sound of this, I’ve also found a couple of other blog posts with some different ideas for you to try:  and

If you have any other ideas for how to remember names, please do share them in the comments.

Teachers – it’s time to face the music

This is a guest post from Natalie.

Consider me the Simon Cowell of education – brutally honest but scarily accurate. After spending as long as I can remember in some sort of school, I would like to think that I am something of an expert on the dos and don’ts of teaching. I have sat, year after year, carefully taking note of all the horrible habits that countless teachers have subconsciously picked up, and now I have compiled them for all to see. I entrust them to you with the hope that the future of teaching will see their demise. So listen up and avoid these slippery stereotypes – it should be plain sailing. Ignore this, however, and face my peers and I at your own peril.

1)      The Prop-Abuser
Everyone loves a good prop. In teaching especially, the essentials should be found in every classroom. They can bring a whole new dimension to a lesson. I urge this use, though, in moderation. Please; one at a time. I’ve had it all when it comes to props – mini whiteboards, traffic light systems, stickers, number systems, cups, laminated card, printouts, booklets, and even a couple of spotted beanbags. These are great, but the trouble is that it often turns into playtime at the circus and the whole point of the lesson is lost in a haze of showcase and pizzazz. Choose carefully, and pick one.

2)      The Enthusiast
I love it when my teachers love their subjects, and love their job. Their joy rubs off on the whole class, and soon we’re just as excited about conjugating être or fluvioglacial landforms as they are. A word of warning, however – alter your enthusiasm accordingly. After all, I am only a 16-year-old. The world is dead to me until at least 10am, and any over the top off-your-face-on-coffee-isn’t-life-just-blinking-fantastic teaching will probably just make me hate you. No offence.

3)      The Wannabe
We all know the type. It’s the one that tries to be ‘down with the kids’, throwing words like ‘wicked’ or ‘totes’ at a dangerously high frequency. Formality is a slippery slope; too formal and a class will switch off, but too friendly and authority can be lost. All I can say is that in my experience authority is the key to respect. Act like one of the kids and pretty soon you’re seen as one – great, until you try to discipline and don’t get taken seriously.

4)      The Shouter
This increasingly common breed of teacher is quite possibly the worst. They shout. And shout. And shout. It’s relentless! Shouting for attention, for praise, when they’re excited, when they’re angry, when they’re trying to wage some authority…Shouting has its uses, for example scaring the living daylights out of a quivering year 7 class. When dealing with older years, however, it starts to lose effect. The best teachers I have had could mute a class with a few simple words uttered under their breath. They didn’t need to shout, because it highlighted their weakness as opposed to their strength.   Shouting is like a chink in the armour – it lets the enemy know that you’re desperate. By all means use it when necessary, but exercise caution, or else forever be known as that red-faced, screaming buffoon in class 103.

5)      The PowerPoint Addict
Quite frankly, flicking through a PowerPoint isn’t teaching. Any 4-year-old can stick some information on a few slides and listlessly click at a desk. Copying notes off a PowerPoint really doesn’t help either, and any teacher who thinks this is the way to educate needs urgent re-training. It’s more than obvious that more needs to be done before kids start to actually learn, so do yourself and your students a favour and wean yourself off this drug before it’s too late.

6)      The Story Teller
I don’t care if your uncle’s best friend’s mother had the same name as me. I don’t care if you went to the Maldives last summer and it was just fabulous. I certainly don’t care about your dog’s sleeping habits. I come to school to be taught, not to hear you witter on about that one time you broke down on the M5 with your mother in law. Please. I just don’t care.

7)      The All Inclusive
There is no rational explanation as to why this is so irritating, but it is. ‘So guys, we’re going to write the date in our books, okay guys? And then, guys, we need to write down the title and the success criteria and could you guys also get out homework, wow, thanks so much guys…’Need I go on? No, and neither should you. It’s repetitive, mind-numbing and can turn a class against you in record timing. We’re not your mates and this isn’t a package holiday, so ditch the all-inclusive approach or us ‘guys’ will ship you off sharpish.

There it is; my almighty list of what not to do. No teacher is the same and no teacher is perfect. We know that and we respect that.
So to all educators: keep up the good work, because it sure as hell looks like a hard job. Learn to wing it once in a while, always mix it up and, as Simon Cowell himself would say I suppose, good luck.

Natalie Cherry is a 16-year-old with a lot to say. She hopes to enter the field of journalism but right now she’s slogging through A levels. If you’ve enjoyed this post, visit her blog to see what else she has to say – feel free to follow it or comment! You can also read what she has to say about the changes to A level exams here.