Sep 06
Learning & Using Students' Names

In June, Amanda Le Rougetel and I attended and presented at the Teaching Professor Conference in New Orleans.

I attended a session on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) that was presented by Chris Lanterman from Northern Arizona University. As each participant entered the room, he asked us to share our name and, when I said “Janine", he replied, “Oh right, you're from Canada. Welcome." I was surprised that he knew something about me, and I thought I was an anomaly. However, he then proceeded to greet each participant with something specific about where they were from or what subject they taught.  

Chris Lanterman is blind, so he was working entirely from memory.

I was so impressed by the effort he invested in creating an inclusive learning environment for each participant. Greeting each of us as he did made us feel welcome and it helped build a collegial atmosphere from the very start.

For many Instructors it's the start of a new term. An essential part of our job is to build relationships with and among our students. And for that, we must know their names.

What are your best practices for learning and using students' names? Sign in above and join the conversation.


I ask students to make them...

I ask students to make themselves a name card (from cardstock I bring in), so that I can identify them easily from the front. Then I try to make an association for myself between their name and their face -- that works more or less well, depending on how many new names and faces there are in the room! In my early days of teaching, I would collect the name cards after day one and then attempt to return them to the students accurately the next class. It always led to lots of laughs when I got it wrong and that helped break the ice in the classroom, but it also took a lot of time, so I gave up on that. But now that I think about it, maybe it is a really productive use of time -- building relationships and trust *does* take time, and it's always a good investment.
Picture Placeholder: Amanda  Le Rougetel
  • Amanda Le Rougetel
 on 9/6/2019 8:07 AM

As I am marking students fi...

As I am marking students first quizzes I have the class photo roster in front of me.  I look at their photo and name as I start to mark their paper.  I look at their photo a second time when I am putting the papers in alphabetic order.  And a third time as I enter the marks in Learn.  They are always happily surprised when I return the papers and can use their name.  It gets much easier after this initial process and I can keep practicing with the second or third quiz.  The photo roster is a great tool for me. Thanks!
Picture Placeholder: Lise Nicole Wall
  • Lise Nicole Wall
 on 9/6/2019 9:06 AM

Photo rosters and name card...

Photo rosters and name cards are both great ideas for helping to learn students' names! I routinely use name cards and invite students to add drawings, symbols or keys words that further identify them. These additional references help both me and other students in the class remember names as well as get to know each other a little better.
Picture Placeholder: Judy McGuirk
  • Judy McGuirk
 on 9/6/2019 10:04 AM

Lise, The photo roster is a...

Lise, The photo roster is an incredible tool.  Do all Instructors know how to access their class photo rosters? I had to be shown how to find and print my class rosters.  Once I knew how, I was off to the races. 
Picture Placeholder: Teresa L. Menzies
  • Teresa L. Menzies
 on 9/6/2019 10:28 AM

I will also highlight that ...

I will also highlight that the photo roster tool is golden!  I'll carry it to classes with me, have it up on my laptop, and review it both before and after class.  As much as I would love to learn ALL the names within the first couple of days, I break it down into smaller groups, starting with the students that are the most active in the class.  Once I have learned the names of the common speakers, I move to the students that occasionally participate.  I'll also have the photo roster with me as I enter grades and feedback, since connecting faces with work helps me remember.
Picture Placeholder: Lindsay Mulholland
  • Lindsay Mulholland
 on 9/6/2019 11:20 AM

The photo roster helps but ...

The photo roster helps but about half of the students don't have pictures next to their names. Rumour is that it's not compulsory for students to have their picture taken. So...On my first day of class, I arrive just on time, get my students' attention, tell them I want to shake each of their hands before we start. I tell them I'm going to repeat their names in the order that I've met them once I'm done shaking their hands. Of course, I often forget many of their names but they enjoy my attempt. I sometimes start guessing the one name I remember for each student until I stumble on that student (good for a laugh). More importantly, I make a map where they sit and CRAM to know their names by the second class. I usually 'score' 90% or more on the 2nd day. It's a bit of a game for me but students seem to appreciate the effort and the humour I try to inject into the whole process.
Picture Placeholder: Andrew Warren
  • Andrew Warren
 on 9/6/2019 1:14 PM

If anyone needs help access...

If anyone needs help accessing the photo rosters, don't hesitate to get in touch with me. You can reach me at or 204-632-3764. I write student names phonetically beside their picture and use that to practice. Then I try to be intentional about using their name during class and in the hallway.
Picture Placeholder: Janine Carmichael
  • Janine Carmichael
 on 9/17/2019 11:36 AM