Learning and remembering students’ names can go a long way toward improving your experience as a substitute teacher in a new classroom. In addition to providing a signal to the students that you are invested in their learning, knowing names comes in handy if you need to redirect the class. It also makes leaving detailed notes for the absent teacher much easier.
Here are a few tips to help you learn your students’ names and have your day be successful.
Arriving to your classroom before the day starts allows you to look over any information the absent teacher left. Sometimes, teachers include a seating chart with their notes. Or, perhaps students’ photos may be posted on a bulletin board. Carefully look over the classroom and the teacher’s notes for any aids that may be helpful.
Create a Chart
The best trick I have learned is to create my own seating chart. Before the students arrive, I create a table/desk grid on a blank piece of paper of the classroom setup. If students have name tags attached to their desks, I write them in, creating a go-to chart for the day. If the students do not have name tags, simply record them on the chart while taking morning attendance.
Play a Name Game
Taking an extra few minutes during the morning to play a name game can help the rest of the day go smoothly. Students can play a game during morning circle time, calling out a classmate’s name as they roll the ball around. For older students, you can have individuals pair up; the students should then spend a few minutes talking about how they will introduce each other to the class and an interesting fact that they will share. Another version of this is for students to pair up and then find out a fact that they both have in common so they can share that with the class along with their names.
Repeat Names Throughout the Day
You can start the day by asking students to say their name before they answer a question or speak. As the class goes on and you become comfortable with students’ names, you can have them stop. This is also a good way to make sure that you interact with every student.
When you call on students to answer questions, another helpful strategy is to repeat their names back to them, i.e.: “You’re right, Andre.” Any practice you can do to reinforce names in your head will help you throughout the day when the students are not sitting in their seats. If you have to ask a student to remind you of their name, genuinely say thank you and then repeat it back to them.
A Note for Middle- and High-School Substitutes
It may be more difficult to learn your students’ names as a substitute teacher in middle school and high school. As you record attendance, be aware of any residual classroom laughter, as students may have “switched” names. Remain calm and firm. Your posture and attitude set the tone for the class. Reminding students that you’ll be leaving a detailed note for their absent teacher can help keep students on track. Another tip is to call attendance when the students are busy working on something.
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