5 Strategies for Relief Teachers to Learn Student Names Quickly

As a casual relief teacher, getting to know the name of every student in each class you teach, whether it’s for a block or just one day can be nearly impossible. However, building relationships is important for rapport and ultimately a necessary step towards having a well behaved and engaged classroom. The first step for building relationships? Learning names.   

A post in the Queensland Relief Teacher Facebook Group asked this question and attracted some great ideas!   

Here are a few crowd sourced tips and tricks for learning names quickly as a relief teacher.  

The Name Game. Students all sit in a circle (if there’s room). Start things off by saying your name, then the first student will say their name. Once they say their name, you repeat it and then the next student says theirs and you say the first student’s name and then the second. Keep going until you’ve successfully said all the students’ names. For example, the first student, “Billy” then you’d say “Billy”, second student, “Jane”, you’d say “Billy, Jane” third student, “Sophie” you’d say “Billy, Jane, Sophie” and so on. The kids get a real kick out of it and they always get pulled up if they try to give a fake name!” – Bec  

Triple Roll “At roll time, say their name 3 times out loud while looking at their face. While you do it, try and think of a feature that will help you remember them e.g. Hendrix is happy (h, h) Holly is jolly. Beau wears blue shoes (b,b) Stuff like that” – Jenessa  

Opportunistic Learning “Read their names off their books, lunch boxes, hats, etc. Keep the roll in front of you and remember something about them that helps you remember their name” – Brooke  

Want more ideas?  

Here are some more strategies and activities you can use to remember names quickly so you can move on to the next thing, teaching.  

  1. Start with introductions. 

Some experts feel introductions put kids on the spot. They do, but so does life. It’s a good idea to make introductions and public speaking a day-one skill, telling students it’s a money-making skill, and a gift to give them even if they aren’t comfortable speaking right now.  They’ll always thank you later. Give a reward: “Introduce yourself. You get 100 on your first quiz, and all you have to do is get your name right.” Work hard to learn a few names during this activity then tell an amusing story or two about yourself to put the class at ease.  

  1. Use name tents

Get the students to write their name in large letters on both sides of a folded 5 x 8 index card and place it on their desk. This is an easy strategy to ensure you never forget a child’s name and with the card being there, it allows you to get familiar with names to faces.  

  1. Make it a game.

Games are a fun and different way of learning. When learning students’ names, you can incorporate a game to make it fun for the students to get to know one another as well as yourself. For example, throwing a small soft ball around the classroom, saying your name as you catch the ball or if you know the other student’s name, say their name when you throw the ball to them.  

  1. Use name tags

Get the students to wear stick-on name tags. This will help you get to know their names throughout the day.  

  1. Try a seating plan

If you are teaching a specific class for a longer period than just one day, one trick that can help you learn the student’s names faster is a seating plan. Arrange the students in alphabetical order of their first names, getting them to sit in this order will help you become familiar with the student’s names. Humans are creatures of habit!  

Now that you are on your way to learning students’ names (and they know you care enough to learn their names), you can get on with the important job of teaching.  

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