Published 18th February 2019


Lesson planning, classroom management, elicitation, error correction, giving instructions – there are so many skills we need to utilise in the English as a Foreign Language classroom, but there is one which is often overlooked. It is a skill which can make or break a classroom environment which is conducive to learning. It is a skill which can catapult a teacher from “ok” to “our favourite”. It is a skill which is so simple yet often forgotten.

What is this magical skill we speak of?

It’s the skill of remembering names!

Why is remembering names so important?

Students like to feel special. (Let’s face it, we all do!). Sitting in a class with twenty-nine other learners can easily make a student feel insignificant, but the minute you show them you know their name they immediately realise you are paying attention to them. Knowing names is a way to maintain focus, as it is easier to call on individuals if you know their name, instead of pointing vaguely in the direction of a student. It makes conversation easier because people are more likely to talk openly if they feel they are part of a family or a team rather than just another bum on a seat. Knowing names will help you feel more comfortable with your students.

Most of all, though, learning your students’ names means you are making the effort to get to know them. This builds rapport within your classroom and helps you get to know your students, and your students get to know each other.

But it’s so hard to remember ALL their names!

Yes, we know. Some EFL teachers can teach hundreds of students a week so it can seem almost impossible to know them all. It is possible, though – it just takes practice!

5 Tips for remembering students’ names

  • Repeat their name when you meet them. This is a common strategy when meeting new people, and it works.
  • In the first few lessons, every time you want a student to speak or do something, use their name instead of just pointing at them.
  • Create a class map. Instead of writing all the names down as a list, write them on a map of the classroom. In other words, make a diagram of the seating arrangement and write the names in the place of their seat.
  • Play a memory game. Playing a game on the first day is useful for the students to get to know each other but also for you! If the students already know each other, think of a game which requires their repeating each other’s names for you to get the same benefit.
  • Get to know your students. The more you know about a person, the more likely you are to remember their name along with the other information you know.

Knowing somebody’s name can seem trivial but learning your students’ names’ can have dramatic consequences on your classroom.  The skill of remembering students’ names is key.