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Ideas for Learning Students' Names and Building a Community

Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Date Posted: 8/12/2020

We know remote learning during spring 2020 presented educators with a variety of challenges, including connecting with students—even though educators already had established relationships with their students. With the fall 2020 semester approaching, many educators will have fresh new faces to meet and greet—only this time, these crucial first impressions will often occur online. The key to starting a connection off right? Remembering student names.

Knowing and then remembering someone’s name indicates respect and instills a feeling of “You are worth remembering.” Knowing names means establishing a community—something that’s important for many educators to establish with their students. To that end, here are some ideas for remembering your students’ names and building a community when school starts up again. 

  • This article from TeacherVision, “4 Ways to Build Classroom Community During Distance Learning,” mentions ideas such as “Flat Teachers” and morning messages to start creating a safe space for your students in a virtual learning environment.
  • In “Getting to 100% Student Engagement in Distance Learning,” an educator lists a few tips she’s learned along the way to help increase student and parental engagement.
  • Consider trying this exercise from EdWeek called “Classroom Connection Check-In.” Using tools like Google Forms, this exercise involves creating a simple questionnaire to collect information from students and then putting that information into a chart for you to refer back to in order to create connections with each student.
  • With your roster sheet in hand, greet each student as they join your virtual classroom and ask for their name. As you check off their name, look back and forth between the name on the sheet and their face to really cement the connection in your brain.
  • Use the time just before and after class to study a few names at a time. Break it down even further by inviting students to a separate virtual meeting in small groups to learn a bit more about them. In short: start by learning a few at a time!
  • Use a student’s name whenever possible, and ask students to say their names every time they speak. After they say their name, say it back to them. This also allows you to confirm that your pronunciation is correct.
  • Try linking a word that begins with the same consonant as the student’s first name, but make sure it’s something positive!
  • Involve the students (they need to know each other’s names, too, right?). Students can write something about themselves to share with the class, or pair up the students and give them a few minutes to “interview” each other and then take turns sharing with the class. Suggest to the students that they tell you something about themselves that makes their names more memorable—such as where they’re from, what they like to do, etc. 

Best of luck on this new school year, Texas educators. We know challenges are ahead, but if there’s anyone who can make their students feel seen and remembered, it’s you.

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