One of the most underrated skills of great teachers: The Ability to Learn Students' Names

Names, Names, Names!

Think back...Have you ever been called the wrong name by one of your teachers, co-workers or bosses? Or perhaps these same people continuously mispronounced your name? Now, think about how this made you feel. If you are like me, these very common mistakes can be annoying, disappointing or they can even hurt. When someone cannot remember your name or pronounces it incorrectly (even though you have corrected them in the past) it makes you feel like you are not important to them. When it's a teacher who has these issues, the students psyche can really be damaged, as students need to feel significant and appreciated by their teachers.

When teaching abroad in a foreign country this is inevitably a problem that you will face. For me, when I was teaching in Korea, remember students' names and pronouncing them correctly was a real struggle. First of all, to foreigners, Korean names can same very similar. Combine this with the fact, that over 50% of Koreans have the last name Kim, Park or Lee and you'll see why remember names can be challenging. Moreover, the pronunciation of Korean names is significantly different than the way North Americans would pronounce these names. At first, students will probably understand if a foreigner has trouble remember a name or pronouncing it correctly, but after a period of time this is unacceptable. are some of the strategies that I used when teaching abroad and some other common tips:

1. Study. Just like your students are studying English, you need to use your free time to study the names of your students. When students were working by themselves or in groups in class, I would also use this time to learn names.

2. Have students make name cards on the first day and display them on their desks so you can read them.

3. Create a seating plan for your students.

4. Use student names as much as possible. This will help you learn them faster. Also knowing and using your students' names will come in handy with classroom management and for calling on students to answer questions, so you can properly assess and evaluate their progress.

5. Name games are a great way to break the ice on your first day and learn names.

6. If you cannot pronounce a name correctly, ask them to repeat it. Take the time and show students that you care about getting their names right

7. Create name associations. Many experts suggest that you conjure a verbal game or image when your first hear a name. It could be an association about something you know about the person (i.e. Bo Young from Busan) or about that person's job or interests (i.e. Miguel the music lover)

Please let me know what you think about my strategies and if you have your own great ideas.


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