Learning Names

I have written on this before but something coming up again soon for UK teachers and no doubt many readers are already doing this – lots of new names to learn! Something we all need to do at the start of each year, learn the names of our classes as fast as we can! Certainly I think this is worth spending time on and should be a priority, we want our students to know that we know who they are!

Name card

I used name cards last year and will certainly use them again for the coming academic year. These are simple to make from an A4 piece of paper which can be folded in half and then folded in half again. Students can then write their name clearly on one side of the card. The other side of the card visible to the student could be a reminder of anything you want; the above illustration shows the card I used for a lesson observation with a class I was unfamiliar with. For my own students I have the details of when homework will be set and handed in and the address of the blog I use to post details of homework. In case it’s useful this is the Word file for the above example.
name card template

There is plenty of useful advice for learning names, these suggestions might be helpful:

I was interested to see a suggestion to seat your class alphabetically by their first name rather than surname in one article; that could be worth a try.

TES – Learning Names on New Teachers

Learning Students’ Names from the University of Nebraska includes many suggestions. I might try a variation on suggestion 15 here with younger students, perhaps they could try and think of a mathematical term which begins with the same initial letter as their name, Colleen calculator, Tina triangle….!

On the subject of names it is worth mentioning the lists compiled by the Office for National StatisticsIn fact the top names for England and Wales for 2013 were published on August 15th 2014. This pdf  details the key findings from the data and includes Excel files to download various tables. There are clear infographics showing the changes from 2003 to 2013 for girls and boys.

Anna Powell-Smith’s website  England & Wales Baby Names has details of names chosen by parents in England & Wales each year from 1996 to 2013 (based on the ONS data discussed above), using this site makes it easy to see the popularity of a name over time, we could search on Colleen for example (or this link for the US version)!

I think teachers and students can also be users of the baby name statistics because in my experience it goes down very well with students! What’s in a name? is a lesson from the the Census at school site; the lesson is suggested for Year 7 (age 11-12) and learners are asked to investigate popular first names and do a survey for their class on the image of first names and to report their results. This involves data collection, presenting data and designing a survey. Another suggested lesson which I have have successfully used myself is Baby Names from Stats4schools. The lesson involves students investigating the popularity of names and asks whether names get more or less popular over time.

Students might be interested to see how their school compares to the ONS data.

Further websites offering Statistics on names:

Entering a name into WolframAlpha shows US Statistics for that name and gives the etymology of the name and notable people with that name.

This Wikipedia entry has the top 10 names for various regions of the world.

And just what you always wanted to know, it seems Max and Bella are the most popular names for US dogs – Popular Dog Names – 2013! In fact Max tops this UK list as well.

7 comments on “Learning Names

  1. Pingback: Learning Mats | MathsZest

    • I work in the same department as Colleen and love it;-)
      On learning names: Last year I used lollysticks in combination with Colleen’s cards. I hand out the cards personally for the first few lessons to actively learn the names. I use lolly sticks to support the name learning and to randomise questions to ensure I not only ask students whose name I already know…
      Happy last week hols everyone!

  2. Once when I seated my classes alphabetically by first name, the shortest student in one class was assigned to sit in the back of the classroom behind the tallest student in that class. I had to make a quick adjustment!

      • I think it helped, but it isn’t the complete answer to the problem of remembering names. Name cards are a great idea.
        I also did my grade book on the computer alphabetically by first name, and that saved me so much time. But… this is embarrassing: I didn’t realize I had a set of identical twins in one of my classes until well after the first grading period ended because the twins didn’t sit near each other and I never looked at last names alphabetically.

      • My very first year of teaching – a long time ago! I did not realise I had twins in a class until one morning (very early in the term) when one asked a question ..and then the other one on the other side of the classroom asked another question!

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