Anyone who has ever taught a classroom full of students knows the importance of learning students’ names! As we enter the new school year, many classrooms will begin virtually. Last spring, by the time students were in their own homes doing remote learning, teachers already knew their student’s names as well as their personalities, some background on their families or home lives, and what their strengths and challenges were. This year, many teachers will be meeting students for the first time via screen, in short segments rather than the 6-hour school day. Multiply this times a class full of students, and teachers have a challenge on their hands. How will they get to know each student in the same way? Well, it starts with learning their names. Here are a few tips to get started learning student’s names if the school year starts with remote learning.

Make sure students are logged onto the online learning platform with their first and last name. Sometimes kids log in with a parent or sibling’s account, or the name next to their picture says something like, “Maria iPad” or a series of numbers. Look into how to change names on whatever platform you’re using. (It’s usually quite simple and doesn’t require a login change.) Then, depending on the age and technology competency of students, either instruct them how to change it or change it yourself on their behalf.

Say their names over and over… and over. This is a good trick in general, but in a virtual learning space, it’s imperative. It’s easy to get lost in a group video call. There are lots of distractions and it’s hard to know who the teacher is looking at or talking to. Nothing pulls a student back in more than using their name. Using their names keeps them engaged and lets them know you’re talking to them and bonus (!) helps you remember their names.

Take screenshots of your first couple of video calls and study them. In the same way you might take individual or class pictures at the beginning of the year, with remote learning you may have to rely on screenshots of a video screen. (You can also use your cell phone to capture a picture of your screen.) Then, outside of calls, take a few moments to periodically review the images, looking at each child’s face and background along with their first and last name. Reviewing these several times will help your brain form connections between their names and faces and environments. In no time, you’ll have it down!

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