'Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.'
Teaching new classes and learners is exciting! We get to influence young minds and facilitate them in their learning journeys.
One of the most important rules for starting off on the right foot with your new students is to learn their names. This might seem daunting, especially when you teach language learners who might have names you’ve never encountered.
You don’t have to go through the semester asking students to repeat their names or help you pronounce their names again and again. Instead, try the activities and resources below to help you and your students learn each other’s names and pronounce them correctly. Your learners will appreciate the effort taken to get their names correct. They will also feel more accepted and welcomed into your class.
Who’s In Our Class? Word Games
On the first day of class, get students to write down their names, the phonetic transcription or pronunciation, and one cool fact about them. Collect these and create a word search, crossword or other word game for classmates to play with all your students’ names and their cool facts. Make crosswords and word searches with Discovery Education, Armored Penguin, Word Mint, and Abcya (word search / crossword).
Class Names Dictionary
Use a web tool, such as VoiceThread, Buncee, Book Creator, Google Slides or Livebinders to create a digital dictionary of the names of the students in your class. Feel free to use this Google Slides template, in which students write down the name they’d like to be called and include a video pronouncing their name and sharing a fact about themselves.
One of my favorite ways to learn names is with the Name Shark app. I pass my iPad around with the app opened. Students take a selfie and then enter their preferred first and last names. I can then play a variety of quizzes to guess the names and remember their faces.
How Do I Pronounce Your Name?
Put every student’s first name on a strip of paper and put all the strips in a bag or jar. Use a smartboard or projector to display the website Pronouncenames.com. Each student draws a name and types in the name on the Pronounce Names website. Make sure the audio is turned up so all hear the name pronounced. Ask the student with the name to stand and correct the pronunciation if needed. If the student agrees with the pronunciation, then the class says in unison, “Hi Name! Nice to meet you.” Make it more fun for young language learners by getting them to bow after the greeting.
Name Meanings and Origins
Students research their name meanings and origins. Then they use a web tool, like Buncee, Canva or Google Slides to create a slide displaying their name and its meaning and origin. They should also include the story behind how they got their name. Students present the images and history behind their names to their peers.
Acrostic Name Poems
Students spell out their names vertically on a piece of paper or digital slide. For every letter, they write a few words or a sentence describing something about themselves. At least one word in the sentence should begin with the letter. Learn more about the various forms of acrostic poems here. Another idea is for learners to type in their names into the Acrostic Poem Generator and share the results in pairs. They discuss what words describe them and think of better words to replace the ones that don’t.
Make sure students are able to present to peers so everyone learns each other’s names. You may want to use a curation tool like Pinterest to add all the activities to one location so students can revisit the board to learn the names of their classmates. Another idea is to create a class Voicethread in which all learners pronounce their names and present their creations.
Clapping Name Mingle
Form two lines. Students face each other and introduce themselves. The pairs then play a hand clapping game, in which, they spell the names aloud and clap hands for every letter.
Jump Rope Name Chant
Students line up while two peers hold the jump rope. The first one up says his/her full name then begins jumping and repeats the following chant beginning with the first letter of their name and filling in their own ideas: “S my name is Shelly. My dog/cat/sister/brother/parent’s name is Rosco, and I like pizza.”
After each student jumps and completes the name chant then they go again in a second round. This time each student repeats the chant of the peer they follow in line. If Kim is behind me then she would chant while she jumps, “S her name is Shelly. Her pug’s name is Rosco and she likes pizza.”
Circle Ball Introductions
This activity is especially fun for very young learners. This is the way my class of 2 year-olds began the class. Sit in a circle. One student holds a ball. The student says, “Hi! My name is Shelly.” As the student says the name she should hit the ball for each syllable. For Shelly she hits the ball twice. Then the class says in unison, “Hi Shelly! Nice to meet you.” Then the student passes the ball to another student and the activity repeats.
For older children try the Jump Rope Name Chant, but instead students repeat the chant and pound on the ball. The next person who takes the ball repeats the previous student’s chant and adds their information.
Name Action Syllables
This is a great game that uses Total Physical Response (TPR) to remember names. Gather learners in a circle. Students greet the class with their names and associate an action with each syllable of their names for the class to repeat. For example, I might snap for “Shel” and stomp my foot for “ly.” The class says,“Hi Shel (snaps) ly (stomps),” repeating the actions.
Name Songs and Games
Children love learning names with fun songs and games. A popular game is, Who Stole the Cookie From the Cookie Jar?, and the Name Game (Banana Fana). Display the lyrics on a smartboard or projector along with a list of the class names on the side of the lyrics.
What tips do you have for remembering the names of your language learners?