One BIG Beginning of the Year Mistake (and How to Fix It!)

The beginning of the school year is overwhelming. There are so many things to prep, plan for and teach. It’s easy to forget the “little things.” Here’s one big beginning of the year mistake and how to fix it!
My first year of teaching, I was SO proud at how quickly I learned my students names. *pats self on back* Then, weeks (maybe even a month or so) into the school year, a student came to tell me something at indoor recess. He pointed at a group of girls and declared “She said I was cheating in Sorry.” I asked “Who is ‘she’? There are about 5 girls over there.” He said “I don’t know her name.”
WHAT!!!!?!! Then it occurred to me: I  just assumed my students knew one another’s names by now. But it was the 5th (or 6th or 7th) week of school and this kiddo STILL didn’t know all of his classmates’ names!!! I was HORRIFIED!! How could we be building a community without knowing this vital information?! Answer: we weren’t. This was important and it needed to be fixed immediately. Here’s how I have prevented this situation from happening again.

Morning Meeting Greetings 

Do you do a morning meeting? 
Morning Meetings have 4 main components: greeting, message, activity and discussion. I’ve found that even on days when we can’t get to all 4 elements, we always have time for at least a greeting. 
Even if you don’t do a full morning meeting, incorporating a greeting is super beneficial! One of my favorites is a whole group greeting we do on Mondays. We go around the circle and ask each student, “_________, what’s the news?!” And they share something they did over the weekend. Reinforcing names this way is a great memory tool!
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Responsive Classroom has a list of a ton of greetings to use and they are all free! 
If you are looking for ways to keep your morning meeting fresh and fun, I have a post full of ideas here

Name Tags

We might think of having our students wearing name tags so that we can learn their names but it is also a helpful tool for students to learn, too! Here are some cute ones I have made to fit onto labels. Or you could print on card stock and laminate for multiple uses!
You can download these for FREE here: Editable Name Tag Labels
I also have editable student name tag desk plates. They use these ALL the time for math. 
I attach them with a Velcro dot and I love that they can take them around the room with them. 
One day, I spontaneously asked them to bring them to the carpet. We mixed them all up in the center of our circle. Students had to pick a name tag and match it with the student! It was a fun way to review names : ) 


Name Games

This SIMPLE game is a way to practice names AND learn something about your students (and in turn, students learn about their classmates!). Tell students to think of something they like to do and create a hand movement or gesture to represent what it is. I like cooking so I pretend to crack an egg in a bowl. If students can’t think of a movement on their own, we all help them!
Next, we sit in a circle. The first person says their name and what they like to do using their hand signal. For example, “I am Susie, and I like to play with dolls” *makes a rocking motion*. We all repeat “Susie likes to play dolls” and make the movement. Then it goes to the next person. Now comes the tricky part. After the 2nd person goes, you have to repeat what the first person said AND what the 2nd person said. You keep going, repeating each person’s name, statement and movement. It gets pretty repetitive. I was thankful to only have 18 students this year-ha! If you have a large class, maybe break it into two sessions? 


Turn and Talks 

Maybe you already use Turn and Talks in your classroom. This name-learning trick puts a spin on it. 
Instead of having students share out what they said during the turn in talk, have them introduce their partner FIRST! Make sure you switch up partners often so students have the opportunity to introduce many different classmates. I keep this one going for at least a month or two! 

These free turn and talk cards help students find a partner quickly and eliminates the question of “Who goes first?” You can grab them in this free download

Name Word Search 

I don’t know about your students, but mine LOVE a word search! I usually use one as morning work on Fridays. This editable, personalized name word search is PERFECT for reviewing names! My friend, Lauren of Teaching in Stripes, made it SUPER easy to create your own!
You can find this in her store here—->> Editable Class Word Search
I have used a combination of ALL of these activities over the past few weeks and, to be honest, I still have just a few kiddos that need name reminders. One thing I explicitly teach is how to politely tell someone that you forget their name and ask what it is. I heard a student ask yesterday and then said “Oh yeah, I knew that!” As with any learning, sometimes they just need a reminder! 
Do you have any tricks for students learning each other’s names? 
Happy Teaching!

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