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How to Learn 300 New Names by December

Aug 2, 2022 | Tips and Tricks for Music Teachers

How to Learn 300 New Names by December

Well, it’s almost time to go back to school. Or maybe you’re already back. One of your biggest challenges at the beginning of the year is learning a BUNCH of new names. I feel you! That seems to be a bigger struggle for me every year. And now we don’t have the advantage of the Zoom label like we did when we taught virtually. Doesn’t it seem like no matter how many name games you play, it’s still difficult to learn all of your students’ names?

That’s why today you’re going to learn some classroom tested ideas to help you learn at least 300 names by December. You may be asking yourself why it’s a good idea to learn names. I mean, it’s super hard right? We have hundreds of names to remember. Here are 3 reasons why it’s important to learn your kiddos’ names:*

  • It makes them feel good – how many times have you called a student by name to hear them say, “You know my name!” They get so excited, right? Think about it. When someone you’ve just met calls you by name, doesn’t it make you feel important and, well, loved?
  • It helps you with behavior management – It’s so much more effective to call someone by name when you’re trying to keep the peace. If someone is out of their seat or talking out of turn, it works way better to call their name than to walk over and tap them on the shoulder or ask them their name before you correct their behavior.
  • It builds classroom culture – Classroom culture is a subject for another day, but it’s the single most important part of teaching. When your students feel loved and safe, they are more able to perform well and more excited about being in your class. What better way to help your kiddos feel loved than to show them that it’s important to you that you want to get to know them. And what better first step than to learn their name.

So obviously learning your students’ names is the all-important number one goal for the first month-ish of school. The question is how?? You have like hundreds of kids, and (summer brain) you’ve probably forgotten half of the ones whose names you knew in May.

The easiest way to learn so many names is to just practice them. Every time you see a student in the hallway or in the bus loop, be sure to call them by name. If you don’t know their name, it’s always ok to ask. In fact, be sure to tell your students that it’s going to take you lots of time to learn, and ask them to be patient when you ask them their name for what feels like the 100th time.

Read on for some tried and true strategies to help.

This may seem like cheating, but it is quite simply the best way to learn student names. You can take the first 5 minutes of class and ask your students to create their name tag. Here are some instructions to help you get started:

  1. Pass out name tags.
  2. Pass out 1 marker per student (they are allowed to trade colors).
  3. Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  4. Rules for name tags are as follows:
    • PRINT (not cursive) Name as neatly and as large as possible.
    • Draw 1 picture in a corner if you’d like.
    • Show the teacher from your seat.
    • If the teacher can’t read it, turn it over and try again.
  5. Send class name tags home with 1 student in each class. Here are directions for that parent:
    • Punch a hole at the top.
    • Insert a piece of yarn 1.5 feet long into the hole and tie.
    • Send back to school by next music class.

The challenge is storage. Here are a couple of thoughts:

  1. Place the class’s name tags in a ziplock bag and assign a responsible student to bring them to class each week.
  2. Put command hooks at the back of your classroom, labeled with the teacher’s names. Place all class name tags on one loose-leaf ring. Hang the loose-leaf ring on the teacher’s hook.

Once your name tags are done, you’ll still need some strategies to help for when you see your students in the hall or during choir rehearsal. Name games, of course, are the most fun way, and, if we’re being honest, the best way to remember all those names. Below is a list of a dozen of the most-loved, most successful name games for elementary school students. If you click on the link, you’ll also see a video demonstration of each.

Jump In, Jump Out This game works best for 3-5th graders. Everyone has their own version of the words. The following words allow for the most success, because students only have to come up with one idea:

My name is ______! (yeah!)

And I like to ______! (yeah!)

So I’m going to _____! (yeah!)

For the rest of my life! (For the rest of your life!)

I Can Keep the Beat This game is great for littles. It requires very little thinking, and it also starts your kiddos out with a steady beat activity right away. Plus, everyone echoes each other’s names, which is a great way to help you (and your students) remember names.

The Name Game This is a fun, silly way to learn names. In this game, everyone makes a train, and students take turns saying their names. The teacher then sings all the silly versions of that students name, while everyone conga’s around the room.

Za Cody Cody This is a great game to play maybe the 2nd or 3rd week of school, when you and your students are more familiar with each other’s names. This game is great for 2nd-5th graders. Older students can also practice staying on the beat. If someone gets off beat, they sit down for one round, until the next person gets off beat.

We’re Goin’ Downtown This game is really fun for PreK through 1st graders. This one is perfect to use the first week. Since you’re doing most of the singing, you get to learn your little ones’ names very quickly. Directions on how it works are below:

Ms. Shorey took (you choose a student who hooks onto your waist – Allie), Allie took (Allie chooses a student who hooks onto Allie’s waist – Claire), Claire took (Claire chooses a student – James), James took (James chooses a student). Chorus – during the chorus, the train of people moves around the room. The game continues until all students are in the train. The last 2 students get picked together.

Easy Name Game Competition How fast can you say each other’s names? This competitive game allows students to practice each other’s names, while also competing to see how fast they can say all the names.

Up the Ladder This game works well for all grade levels. The best part about this one, is you and the class get to repeat all the names, which is helpful for remembering names. You can create more complicated body percussion for older kiddos.

Name Game with actions This is a great game for 4th & 5th graders. Each students gets the opportunity to create their own movement/action as they say their name. You can add your favorite music to help students keep the beat. You’ll find this game at 2 minutes on the video.

Johnny Plays the Drum Beat Want to play a name game but also use some instruments? This one is awesome for littles, and everyone gets to keep the steady beat on their drums, while everyone sings and learns each other’s names. The linked video contains instructions, but you can skip to 2:30 for the song.

Name, Name, What’s Your Name Begin this video at 10:45 for this particular game, or you can video the whole thing for several other name games. This is a fun rhythmic phrase that’s just perfect for learning names.

Yes! Name Game Do your kids love to move? Here’s another fun name game your students can play. This one is perfect for your bigger kiddos.

There are, of course, many other ways to remember student names. The important thing is to have fun, work on some music skills, and work on remembering all those names! Do you have a great way to remember student names? Be sure to share your ideas in our Facebook group.

While there are many other challenges at the beginning of a new school year, learning student’s names is one of the trickiest for us music teachers. Hopefully, these ideas will help you start your school year off the right way.

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