As a teacher and director, one of my first priorities at the beginning of a new class or rehearsal process is to learn everyone’s names as quickly as possible. It makes students feel important and that they are a vital part of the class.
It can be challenging to learn names in a drama classroom. More often than not, there are no desks, assigned seats, or a seating plan to work against! But with a little preparation and some practice, learning names quickly will become easier and easier.
Here are some tips that I use to help learn students’ names:
1. At the first class, have students introduce themselves, then you repeat the names out loud.
Muscle memory! At your first class, have your students sit in a circle and introduce themselves. Just a simple, “Hi, I’m Amanda,” is all that’s needed. Then you (the teacher) will repeat the name out loud to stick it in your brain. After a few people say their names, go back and repeat the names out loud, and then continue around the circle, going back every few students and repeating the names. For a challenge, after everyone has introduced themselves, go back and try to say all the names in a row. For an even bigger challenge, close your eyes and have your students change spots in the circle, and then go back and try to identify them again! Like learning lines, repetition is so helpful for memorization.
Bonus: Before classes even start, study the student list to familiarize yourself with the names themselves.
Think of it like familiarizing yourself with the script before an audition! For example, if you go into your Grade 9 Drama class already knowing that you have Jessica, Kyle, Mary, John, and Stuart, it is less intimidating than trying to remember every name in existence. Granted, your classes will have more students than that, but even learning 30 names for a class is less stressful than trying to recall hundreds of names.
2. Repeat and use students’ names.
When answering questions or asking for responses, be sure to practice calling on students by name. If you forget their name, ask them to say it out loud again before answering, and then you repeat it. You could also have them say their name out loud before they answer, during the first few classes.
3. Play name games.
Try the Silent Line-Up Game. Students line themselves up across the room WITHOUT SPEAKING from shortest to tallest. See if they can do it in 30 seconds or less. Then have them repeat the exercise, only this time they must line themselves up in alphabetical order according to first name (again WITHOUT SPEAKING). Once everyone is in place, have each person say their name out loud to see if everyone is in the correct spot. If you’re teaching multiple classes, keep a tally between each class you’re teaching to see which group is the fastest.
Click the download below for a couple of bonus name games!
If you forget someone’s name or feel embarrassed for mixing people up, ask your students to be understanding. Remind the group that there are ____ of them and only one of you and you’re doing your best! It happens to everyone. You will get there!Click here for a free download of two bonus name games: the ABC Name Game and the Action Name Game.
Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. Check out her blog at www.kerryhishon.com.