How does knowing student names help with classroom management?
Managing students behaviour is so much easier when we know their names. Knowing student names increases your withitness. Withitness is when teachers communicate to students by their actual behaviour, that they know what students are doing, or has the proverbial “eyes in the back of the head”. I personally struggle to memorise students names, so over the years, I have developed some trick’s of the trade to speed up this process.
Why is it so hard?
In high school, teachers can have up to 160 student names to remember. Teachers who teach Health and Physical Education or other elective subjects can have even more. This takes time and energy for teachers to remember such quantities of names. But if we want to capitalise on the benefits of knowing student names from the beginning, then we need to have some tricks up our sleeves.
A seating plan is a must.
Number one rule. Always have a seating plan. In an ideal world, we would have preplanned seating plans. We would analyse each student’s data and educational needs and put them in heterogeneous groups of mixed abilities. Read more here.
But as with the nature of school life, we do not always have the luxury of time. Sometimes there are last-minute timetable changes and bam we have a new class starting tomorrow. Here is the strategy I use for this scenario. This can also be useful for relief or substitute teachers.
- Draw a rough plan of how the tables are set out in the classroom and the front of the room.
- Ask students to stand at the back of the room next to a partner they work well with, not their best friend but someone they make good choices with. Ensure they know if they don’t make good choices with this person, they will be moved.
- Most of the time, the boys pair up, and so do the girls. I then sit them in their pairs, mixing up boys and girls. I note their behaviour lining up and separate any students who may have displayed disruptive behaviour and put them near the front.
- During the roll, I ask students to put up their hands and respond so I can quickly write their names down on the pre-drawn classroom layout plan.
- I then transfer this list onto the online system to ensure I have a permanent copy.
- Over the next few lessons, I tweak the plan.
Having this list of names on the first few lessons is gold. Calling upon students by name keeps them accountable and helps you start to memorise their names from day one. I carry it around the classroom and call upon students from where I am to ensure they know, I know, what they are doing. For example, “Dan, why are you wandering around? James, what question are you on? Wendy, stop rocking on your chair. Thank you”
Some schools have fancy online attendance systems that have seating plans integrated, such as SEQTA. This online system is great and can be used to show students on entry their seats. This can save time.
Find time to memorise names.
For example, you could use test conditions or independent study times, if appropriate, and no one needs support. Use this time to walk around the room and memorise students names. Using printed student photos, or even better, the fancy online seating plan. Flick through the photos and ‘test’ yourself. Then, looking around the room, keep testing yourself, over and over until you get 100%.
Use students name every time you speak to them.
Using students names every time you speak to them. “Yes, Poppy, you can go to the toilet, Billy, bring me your book and show me your work. Thank you”. If you see students around the school grounds, welcome them using their names. Don’t be afraid to have a guess if you’re not sure. Or just ask them to remind you of their name.
Get involved when using name games.
If you are anything like me, even after getting to know your activities and name game activities in the first few lessons, I still have difficulties remember everyones name. I always know the handful of students I have had to give consistent reminders regarding their behaviour. It’s the lovely quiet group at the back that is always doing the right thing whose names I can never remember. So after I run all my fancy name game activities, I will still use all the other tips mentioned here.
There are so many name games out there. Kagan is a great resource for all things collaborative and definitely worth having a copy on your bookshelf as a reference. However, for you to have any benefit, you need to get involved and join in. Maybe start with small group memorising games, or a give one get one activity where students have to mingle around asking students names and one interesting thing about themselves.
The bonus of learning student names.
An additional bonus of getting to know student names is it builds rapport between teacher and students. Teachers with great classroom management have great relationships with their students, students know their teacher cares about their learning and wellbeing, and this starts with the teacher knowing their name.