I hate learning students’ names. Not because I can’t, but because I feel like it always takes me so much longer than everyone else. I try really hard, I swear, but every time I can tell the other teachers already know everyone’s names and I’m the lone idiot still struggling.
Here’s what I do: I break the students into small groups of 3 or 4. They choose names for the groups (fun things like “Tornado” or “Star Wars” – they choose, I don’t know why natural disasters seem like a good choice). I find 6 groups of 3 students is easier to deal with than 18 students. It’s great, too, for those moments when you have two or three students whose names you just keep confusing. As long as they’re in separate groups, you can keep them straight.
At my old school, we had the advantage of a roster with everyone’s student ID pictures. That helped so much. But at this school, no such luck. And we have new students coming and old students leaving constantly. I have students moving up to another level and out of or into my class. I have students who just decided not to show up the first week, or who couldn’t get a plane ticket in time. And then I get even more confused. And when they’re all named Abdullah, I want to scream.
I found a few interesting links (from The Chronicle and an article for ESL teachers) on the subject, but I think this is just one area I’m always going to struggle with. I believe in learning students’ names and learning them quickly, but I’ve been teaching them for a whole week now and I’m only at about 50%. My goal is 100% by Friday. We’ll see.