Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Tips for Learning Students' Names

Knowing and using students' names helps to establish a more comfortable, less formal atmosphere in class and shows an interest in your students as individuals. In large introductory courses, TAs who learn names help to reduce the feelings of anonymity and isolation that many students experience.

Use name tents.

Ask students to write their names in large letters on both sides of a folded 5 x 8 index card and to keep this card on their desks for the first few classes.

Annotate your class roster.

When you meet the class for the first time, take a few extra seconds for each student to identify his or her most 1-2 outstanding physical features or other noticeable traits. Be sure to include ways of pronouncing names that are unfamiliar to you.

Use a seating chart for the first 2-3 classes.

Ask students to sit in the same place for a few classes to help you learn their names more quickly.

Use photos.

Take Polaroid pictures of their students individually or in small groups and ask students to write their names on the photos during the first class. Or ask students to bring a photocopy of their driver's license or student ID photo that you can attach to a seating chart or roster.

Learn a few names at a time.

Use the time just before and after class to learn 5-10 names per class. Or invite students to your office in small groups to learn a little about them in addition to their names. Both approaches reinforce that you are interested in the concerns of individual students.

Ask students to write something about themselves.

Ask students to tell you something to make them and their names more memorable, e.g., where they are from, what they like to read or do for fun, or their long-term goals.

Ask students to introduce each other to the class.

Give students 2-3 minutes in pairs to interview each other and discover something that "no one can forget." Go around the room asking students to introduce each other, allowing about 1 minute per pair.

Use mnemonics.

Associating a person's name with a physical feature. Often you can relate the name (or key words with similar sounds) to something more meaningful and concrete with visual images. For example, a tall, thin student named Creighton Rosental can be visualized carrying a large crate of roses on his head.