Strategies for remembering students' names

Author: Aly Spencer
Published: 21/10/2019

Students in a school

"I’m finding it really difficult to remember the names of the students I’m encountering. I’ve always been a bit rubbish with names to be honest, but not knowing their names means I’m just having to point at them and I don’t want to be rude! What can I do to help me learn them?”

Lauren, trainee drama teacher

Learning students’ names is a common challenge for new teachers, especially if you haven’t been in an environment like a school before. You are also having to remember a lot of new information, which will be putting pressure on your memory and 'there is a limit to how much new information the human brain can process at one time' (Centre for Education Statistics & Evaluation, 2017). Be patient with yourself throughout your teacher training year. Asking students to wear stickers or make name plates by folding a piece of paper in front of them won’t do any harm. But here are my top three tips for remembering students’ names.

Ask your mentor for their SIMs seating plan or class chart

These charts usually feature a photograph of each student and where they are usually positioned in the room. This visual representation of the class could improve your recall of names and you could even jot down additional notes as you learn their individual personalities. You could choose to change their seating plan as part of this process if your mentor agrees, and by strategically moving them you will be using and recalling their names. Remember to keep these documents safe in line with the school’s data protection policy.

Buy yourself an address book

Write the name of each student by surname in the book and start to record little bits of information about them under their name. For instance, you might have a boy in one class called Billy Smith and you might learn that he loves Star Wars and has a dog called Yoda. This will help you to profile your students, allowing you to tailor your planning to their needs and smash Teacher Standard 5. It will also encourage the information to move to your long-term memory, which means you should soon be able to recall students’ names with ease.

Use your lesson planning strategically to learn names

Plan activities in your first few lessons that involve students using their names and interacting with you and each other. Asking them to pitch something to the class and introduce themselves properly first is good and develops their communication skills. Most icebreaker activities involve introductions, use of names and sharing their interests or hobbies, so you could use those and that will give you valuable information for your class profile. You should always pre-plan your groups if using collaborative activities. Never let students choose their groups on the day. Spending time putting students into groups prior to the lesson will help you learn their names.

Knowing and using students’ names is really important in demonstrating Teacher Standard 1, and crucially in my experience, students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. By using these strategies to quickly build relationships, you will notice an improvement in engagement in your lessons.


Centre for Education Statistics & Evaluation (2017) Cognitive Load Theory: Research that Teachers Really Need to Understand, NSW Department of Education, p.2.

Aly Spencer

Aly Spencer is Head of ITT for the Fylde Coast SCITT and teaching schools, and co-chair of a network of ITT providers across Lancashire. She has a special interest in the progress and wellbeing of early career teachers.