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Sep 2 / Carl Sorgen

Do you have a strategy for learning students’ names?

Creating a sense of community among students fosters learning both inside and outside of the classroom. Here are some strategies for learning students’ names in courses of various sizes.


For classes with about 40 or fewer students

Have the students move their desks in a circle so everyone can see each other. Ask students say an adjective that describe them and then state their preferred name. The adjective should start with the same sound as their name (e.g., “Charismatic Carl” or “Shy Shonda”). Start with the person on your left and go around the circle.   Here’s the catch; have the next person in the circle repeat all of the previous adjectives and names. The last person should be you. It can be challenging, but hearing the names repeated multiple times and associating an adjective with each individual will help solidify the names for you as well as all of your students.

Tip: This isn’t a test! Don’t be shy about helping each other as you go around the room.


For larger class settings

  • When students ask a question, have them say their name first.
  • Use a seating chart.
  • Have students make name cards that they place in front of them.
  • Use a class list to randomly call on students.
  • Ask students to turn to their left and right (forming a small group of three) and introduce themselves.

Tip: Although it can be difficult to learn every person’s name in large classes, even trying with some success has an impact on students.


For more ideas on building community in your courses, contact the Office for Teaching & Learning at (313) 577-0001 or email We are available in person, by phone, or virtual meeting spaces (e.g., Skype or Blackboard Collaborate).

One Comment

  1. Danielle / Sep 3 2015

    One way that I use to learn students names is to repeat it to myself and then announce their names maybe 5 at the most until I have it, then move on the next group of students, repeat names then add the previous names to the new names when you call them out etc.

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