Remembering Students’ Names

I simply had to research this.

I’ve discovered that not knowing the names of students and staff can lead to complete disaster: appearing uniformed about your students, talking to parents about their child when you can’t quite remember which Lewis in Year 9 you should be discussing, talking to the SEN specialist about EAL students… embarrassing. My issues are both remembering names and faces, particularly when students are dressed identically! Here are some tips I’ve picked up from colleagues, family and friends and my very close and helpful friend, the internet.

If you have access to photographs:

  • Create seating plans with small photographs and details about students e.g. levels, targets, SEN, EAL, etc. Takes time at the beginning of the year, but you will use it all year. Take along to meetings for reference.
  • Stick little photos inside the cover of exercise books to glance at each time you do your marking

If you don’t have access to photographs:

  • Write out the names of students on lollypop sticks, or on a random-o-meter, and when you direct questions to the class, call out a random name, asking that student to answer the question. After the student answers, thank them by name.
  • I find it easier to recall handwriting and pictures, so I always ask students to write their names on their work themselves, and if the school allows, to personalise their books in some way for example, you might let them draw a small picture next to their name or cover their books in coloured or patterned paper.
  • In her blog, Tina Su suggests that when you meet someone with the same name as someone you already know, visualise the two faces bouncing up and down next to each other while repeating the name in your head
  • At, two techniques are suggested. In a nutshell, the first is where you really make an effort to turn different parts of names into images e.g.John Standish = John stand dish. This is obviously a technique that is easier with some names: others will take practise. This website includes a list of common names and appropriate visual hooks.The second technique is to then think of a singular attribute (usually physical, but this could also be something like a lisp or accent), and repeat the person’s name in your head as you think of that particular attribute.
  • Erin Matlock, at suggests associating names with famous people of the same name by picturing them together in a vivid image, e.g. imagine your new student Jennifer in a coffee shop next to Ross. Jennifer goes to sip her coffee and spills it all over Ross’ trousers.