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What's the best way to learn singers' Names?

Thanks to all who replied to my inquiry about learning names. It's nice to know I am not the only one who finds this task a bit daunting! Here are the responses I recieved:

I take photographs of my students in groups of 6, write their names
on the photographs, and drill myself. It's the only way I can do it.

Seating charts are the very best way. First year I taught, I had 750
students! I retired five years ago after 30 years of school music and 38
years of church music. I know your time with the students is limited, but an
activity that works well to help you and the students goes like this. Tell
each student to move next to someone that they do not know or do not know
well. If there is an odd number, you pair with the extra! Tell the
students to take one minute to tell the other one about themselves-things
they would like for people to know about them. At the end of one minute the
other one in the pair does the same thing. The students can take notes if
they like during the time. After this, ask each one to stand up and
introduce their new friend. Another important rule is that they have to say
their new friend's name at least five times during their one minute
introduction. This will help you put names with faces and you hopefully will
learn at least some first names. You are allowed to take notes also, and
remembering something interesting about the student not only helps you
remember them, but a friendly comment or question about their family, pet, or
interests makes them feel more like you care about them and often improves
their responsiveness to you. In your notes, you can write down some short
description of the student to help you remember-the shortest one in class,
wears glasses, etc. Hopefully this will help the students make a new friend,
help you remember who they are, and also is a good public performance/self
confidence activity to stand and speak to the group. (You can use that in
your lesson plans to justify the activity!)

Name games to rhythmic beats such as "Who Took the Cookie from the Cookie
Jar?" help you to learn students' names while they have fun at the same
time. Also, an accumulative name game is helpful, such as, "This is
Pedro:" You have a doll or any object and say, "This is Pedro, and I am
Ms. Campbell." Then you hand it to the next person, who says, "This is
Pedro, that is Ms. Campbell, and I am Peter." Onward around the room. The
last student has to name all the names! Of course, they might challenge
you to do so, too, but maybe you can get out of it by being first and just
listening carefully. Or, maybe you'd like to try, and maybe the students
would give you some credit for trying.
These are methods that have helped me, although I have to add that I was in
an identical predicament to yours one year and I still didn't know all the
names by Christmas.

I taught at a Catholic school for a sabbatical fill last year. My
predecessor and I had polar opposite theories of crowd control. I soon
learned all the names of the discipline problems, but not the kids whose
names I would have liked to know and use. So I took a photo of each class
and got each name in the right place. I spent a few weekends studying and
did manage to greatly improve my recall.

#1 Sing: "Where oh where is my friend _______" This is the song that ends:
"Way down yonder in the paw paw patch." I make sure the children are in a
circle. I'm playing guitar so I can see them all, and make a point of
_consciously looking_ at each child while we sing his/her name. 7 year
olds think this is a scream, for some reason. I begin to dread it but it
#2 For smaller kindergarten groups I take a big ball and, again in a
circle sing; "I roll the ball to you, you roll it back again, What's your
name? "____" We're very glad you came." Sung roughly to the "Farmer in
the Dell." Gives me time to make eye contact with each child.
#3 Older kids like the chant "Listen to the rhythm, listen to the beat,
tell me your name and take a seat." We clap a rhythm to this and go around
the class.
#4 Use their names to make beat patterns. Fun with older children. They
can clap the syllables, etc. Meanwhile you are getting some memory help!
It is worth the effort. Children _love_ it when you remember their names.
Of course, I bless the teachers who slap a name tag on each child.

I used to be a group therapy facilitator and played this icebreaker game with
participants (which was very popular). We would go round the room (about 40
persons) and each person would say their name, repeating the names already
spoken. I would then go round the room and say all the names, and each
person in turn would repeat them (with help from the group). Within about 5
minutes, everyone in the room would be able to repeat all the names. They
wouldn't stick from week to week but it was a big help to everyone.

Every Kodaly or Orff clinician has what must be a trick for memorizing the
names of however many are in the clinic by doing a circle game in which
they establish a simple rhythmic clapping pattern over which each class
member rhythmically says his or her name around the circle. By the time
the circle is finished, the clinician know and remembers every name. I
have never figured out the trick. Find one of these clinician and they may

I could not function without a seating chart. I had my school by Wenger risers. On 4 sections of risers, I seat about 12 students on the top row, and about 10 on the bottom row - no one on the middle row. I have a clip board with seating charts for each class, which I place in the order I see the classes during the week. I make 2 copies of those classes I see twice so the charts stay in order. I only have to glance at the chart to call a child by name. the chart also provides a place for me to record grades.The exception is my kindergarteners. I make name tag necklaces for them at the beginning of the year, which I pass out each time they come to music.

With the younger students, play games which have a name in it, like Lucy
Locket, but substitute the name of the student who is "it." Many, many
games can work this way.
With any age student, because I feel it is important to know the names
of all in front of me, I ask the child's name when I meet him/her in the
hallway. I try to use the student's name whenever possible, even in the
For the older students, I assign seating. And then use the chart until
I get it in my head. I will change their seating every quarter so that
they don't have to be in the same place too long. This could be done
more often, depending on your needs.

1) only worked on 6 or less names per class per week. Made sure I called
more than once per period on that child whose name I was planning to retain.
Wrote the names down as I left the classroom, even made notes, blond, silly,
serious, jokester, whatever. Looked at the notes at the end of the day to
re-picture the child; looked at the notes before seeing the kids again the
next time.
2) Have the children make their own music name tags that they wear when you
come (or they come to you). Make yourself use their names when you call on
3) When I see a child in the hallway (outside of his classtime) I make a
point of saying the child's name to him/her. If I don't remember, I say,
"Gosh, I forgot your name already! Just give me a hint--what's the first
letter?" If that doesn't work, "Remind me of your name?" Then I say it to
the child directly several times in the course of a moment's conversation,
with lots of smiles, just to get my brain to connect name to face.
4) Greet the children with a Sol-Mi version of their names. Great way to
practice Solfeg, the kids can practice your name on Sol-Mi too. e.g.
"Hel- lo Ms. Jones"
Sol Mi Sol Mi
"Hel- lo Ran- dy"
Sol Mi Sol Mi
And practice the Curwen hand signs at the same time. Lots of good practice
for all, and the kids *love* to hear their own names sung. Have them greet
each other individually, (one at a time of course) but you get to help them
with intonation, singing the interval, finding head voice, and secretly,
you're learning names!
5) Use some fill-in-the-blank songs for primary kids especially that allow
names' use and you're sure to learn a few more this way.

in the days of digital cameras becoming affordable, you might want to consider
taking the pictures and learning the names "offline", if you will. Maybe you can
even delegate it to a person in the class to go around and take pictures, either
writing the names down with the picture number, or making thumbnail printouts
and have the students themselves write their names under their picture. Or
something like that.
I don't have to tell you about memorizing techniques, I suppose those where the
ones you ment (repeat it out loud within twenty seconds, image associations,

Make a little phrase for each student: consciously match a personal
characteristic with the name, and make it rhyme or jingle nicely if
possible. The phrase will stick in your memory much more easily than the
name itself. "william-late-to-class", "stacey-big-brown-eyes", etc.

Honestly what I did...I just took one day and played music that was
familiar to the children so they could sing along, and had the children
make music name tags. I had to cut the name tags out ahead of time.
For the younger ones, I wrote their name in black marker on a tag made
out of old manilla folders, punched two holes in it and they could wear
it as a necklace. I allowed them to decorate it as they sang to the

The older ones, we made folding name tags to sit on their desks. The
name had to be written in black marker--they could do it or I
would--then they could decorate it.

I had a packet to keep each class set in. Most of the teachers had a
file cabinet drawer I could keep them in. If not, I had a storage
closet. At the beginning of each day, I gathered the packets of names I
needed (always keeping 1 or 2 extra for new students) and went to class.
Because I saw their names so often as I looked around the class, I had
their names learned soon. I even played a game with the younger
ones...I would turn my back away from the class and one person would
pick 5 people to take off their name tags. I would then try to guess
their names. The kids called this "The Music Teacher's Test" and they
would give me a grade.

Take pictures of each class, standing in alphabetical order - then spend
a few minutes each day working on them.

Take pictures of kids or groups of kids. Label them
and then you can refer to them outside of class time.

Make a video tape of each kid saying their name and something they do
besides singing. It takes 5 minutes to do a choir of 80. Take the tape home
and watch it 8 million times...

I played the Concentration Name Game with every class, grade 4
and up until they could do it without missing a beat. With the little ones, I
do tons of name games each week until I know them solid. I also tell the kids
that when I see them in the hall, they can ask me what their name is...if I get
it wrong or can't remember, I give them a sticker (I have these music note
stickers - very small - that I carry around with me the first few weeks). If I
get it right, I give myself a sticker (they think that's a hoot!).

The Dale Carnegie course has the best tools for remembering names. For
more information, check them out on-line at I just
started the program and am thrilled to tell you that I know the first
and last names/faces of all 38 classmates.

Make up a key-word nickname for a student, and associate that word
with their name. The key word should be something you think of
immediately on looking at the student.

- I often come up with key words based on hairstyles, and then I
tease the kids that if they change their hair I'll forget their name.
(And it happens. They change their hair and I start stumbling over
their name.) We have a redheaded Rian, so I remind myself that Rian
has the Reddest hair in the group. We have a Kerry with curly hair,
so I associate Kerry/Curly.
- Another source of key words is extremes within the group --
blondest hair; biggest front teeth (really -- student was named
"Vance" and I associated the front teeth with the word "advance").
We have a large woman in our group whom I'll call "Mary" for the
purpose of this message, and somehow I picture the letter "R" in
"Mary" sort of voluptuously oversized, and that helps me remember
Mary's name.
- Third source of key words is who you know that they look like. We
have a tenor who looks sort of like Buster Brown and his name is
Rusty, so in my name I connect Buster-Rusty. You can use people you
know personally as your cue people, or celebrities or fictional
characters (Mona Lisa, Kermit the Frog, and Lassie are all effective).
What can help if the students actually look different from each other
is snapshots. I used to take a Polaroid photo of each choir member;
now digital pictures would work well too, I think. Study them like
flashcards! Students saw me studying these and were impressed and
amused. Where this didn't work was when I taught at a school where
90% of my students were Asian women. The students and I all got a
big laugh when we looked at the photos -- since everyone was close in
hairstyle, size, age, and skin tone, even the students' friends had a
hard time telling the small photos apart.
Another thing that helps a lot: study the roster right after a class
meeting, and try to remember what each student looked like. Then
study it again between classes.

Be sure to always call them by their name, or, if you cannot remember
it, ask them what it is. With my memory I don't have any more
suggestion than that, except don't be ashamed of not knowing - you can
do what you can do.

I work with several choirs at the university and must get to know many
faces quickly. I buy a disposable camera and--with a little help from a
couple student helpers (or teacher aides perhaps in your case?)--I have
students "pose" for small group photos (8 to 12 in a frame) and have them
write their names on a prepared chart representing the same standing order.
Often I'm able to memorize their identities within a few days. This really
works for me and I can tell that the students are often surprized that I
know who they are.

The school should have a "memory book" from last year
with student pictures on it. Xerox the pages and make
4x6 cards with name, picture and class on it. This
cards can also be used for quick comments and
Play names games with students (rhythm games with
names), you'll learn them! You'd be surprised at how
many kids DO NOT know the names of their classmates,
and it will help the new kids.
Make seating charts; they are not out of line. It is
the responsibility of each student to keep a positive
attitude and make their class a better place to learn.
I keep grade K-1 in an alpha circle. Grades 2-5 sit in
height order rows; no more than 5 in each row; they
have a number AND a letter (like playing battleship...
B2, C5, etc.) Do not change seats for the year. You
automatically have two ways of co-op groups and a
ready-to-use concert order. Use a "free sit" circle or
3-2-1 "Places, everyone" for an incentive. (With
grades K-2: "This is my space, this is my place, my
space, my place, nobody but me!"

I just
try to do the best I can with the names - I take roll
at the beginning of class, and that way I at least
remember who's who for the next thirty minutes! I also
try to make myself call the children by name when I
see them in the halls or when I'm out in the hall
controlling traffic on the way to the busses in the
afternoon or when I have morning duty. (But if all
else fails, "sweetie" works nicely, especially with
the younger ones!)
You mentioned that seating arrangements are difficult
in your space. I have thirty or so big chairs, but
even many of the third graders have a harder time
sitting in them. Third and above sit in chairs, and if
I need to have assigned seats for behavior reasons, I
do it and make out a seating chart. For the younger
ones, I've done two different things, both of which
work pretty well. Last year I got four different color
ribbons and sewed velcro to the ends (just the hook
side) and in the middle, to at least keep it on the
floor until the kids got in and sat down. At the
beginning of the year, I handed out colored cards as
they came in and they had to sit on the ribbon that
matched their card. I then wrote out who was on what
side. They might not always be in the same order, but
the same smaller groups were in the same places, and
actually, they tended to sit in the same places on
their side of the square even though that was not
required. They learned where to go fairly quickly, and
by the end of the year I didn't even put the ribbons
down anymore. This year I'm trying something
different. I got felt squares in various colors for 20
cents apiece at WalMart, three pieces per color, and
made a square, a triange, and a circle in each color.
I used fabric paint to put a number on each one. Each
child has a number, so they find the spot with that
number on it and sit down. For some classes, and when
I'm rushed for time, I just put the spots down
randomly. For others, especially my two first grade
groups, which are both two classes together, I have a
specific order that I put them in. They have assigned
seats, but this way I can do it without them knowing
it. Those are for k-1. I have rubber spots I ordered
from the Music In Motion catalogue that I numbered and
started off using with everyone, but I got tired of
children forgetting my rule about "never touch the
spots with your hands" and making nice rips (and these
aren't that easy to rip!) in my spots, so only second
grade uses them since they're better about remembering
my rule!

Have the first student intoduce himself/herself with first name only, paired with a plant or animal that starts with the same letter. E.g. "Hello, I'm Paul Potato". The second students introduces himself/herself, and re-introduces the first student. Eg. "Hi, I'm Susan Sunflower, and this is Paul Potato." The next student follows in similar way: "Hi, I'm Fred Fungus, and this is Susan Sunflower and Paul Potato." You do this until the entire class introduces itself, and then you go last! I have used this myself for up to 30 students at a time and found that it works quite well for me. It gives the brain a real workout and can add some laughter to the class. (Gives students' brains a good workout, too - good luck!)

Practice! It's difficult learning all the names at once, but make yourself
practice the names at the beginning of class . . you can make a game out of
it, see how many you get right, etc . .
Also, make yourself call on the children my name . . and if you don't know
the name, ask them, then ask the question or respond to their question. I
usually say something like, "Tell me your name again . . "
I have been at my current elementary school for 16 years. My brain is
rapidly becoming full!

Do a lesson plan where the children make a name tag, with their name on it, that is large enough for you to read from the front of the room. A single fold one that they can put on the front of their desk. Leave it in the desk, and when they arrive, bring it out and put it on the front for you to see. Then practice by playing a game with them. Have them turn a row of names over, and you try to name the kids. They WILL enjoy seeing you work. Just keep repeating until you learn them all.
Have a technical friend take digital pictures of them, as they come to class. Then put thumbnail pictures on a sheet for you to look at and you write their names on it. You keep the sheet. Use it weekly until they are learned.
Line them up alphabetically for a couple of weeks, call their names off one at a time and let them in the room.

Dave, Dave, rim ram Rave
Ree Rai Roo and a Bobtail's Bave
Sally, Sally, rim ram Rally
Ree Rai Roo and a Bobtail's Bally
Accompany with patch/clap pattern.
I always disciplined myself to go through my role at the beginning of every
period and know each child's name at least at the beginning of that period.
This may take a few minutes, but raport and classroom management will be
much easier if you know who you're talking to. I STILL find it helpful to
use my role as I call on students, both to make sure I'm calling on every
student and to remind myself of names.

I used a method where I would start at one end of a row and say each students name adding one to the next, e.g., alex, alex katie, alex katie john, and so on. I look at the students face each time I say the name and if I can make some other hook, I say it out loud, like "oh that's my brothers name" or something like that. It's time consuming, yes, but it pays off later when the student may be off task and you can snap them back from across the room because you know their name. Once a week makes it difficult too. I see mine at least twice a week and three times on alternate weeks. We've been in school for six weeks now and I'm about 90% on the names. I also practice outside of class: when I see kids in the hall, coming up the sidewalk before school, I even tell the kids to quiz me when they see me. They seem to like that, too!
Sometimes I also quiz the kids on music stuff using the class roster, and just call random kids from the list and see who I get and then try to make a connection. I think the key is to get some kind of "hook" to their name rather than simply rote memory.

One way I
deal with it is to take my digital camera to school the first couple of
weeks, and individually photograph each student -- at least the new ones,
7th grade, that I don't know. They are given an index card with their name
printed in bold marker, they hold that under their chin, so the name
appears in the picture. Then at home I do a compilation on "PhotoStudio",
print out the pictures and make up a picture book. (about 8 photos on a

With a small group of younger kids & a large ball you can sit in a
circle & sing. "I roll the ball to Joey, Joey, Joey I roll the ball to
Joey and Joey rolls it back." 6/8 d/d dd m/s m /f r /s m d/d dd m/s
m m/f fr d/d each child in turn supplies her/his name.

One thing I've found very helpful is to have them
bring a small school picture and make seating charts
with pictures and names on foam posterboard. Some
years I've taken the pictures myself.

.....line them all up and take a digital or polaroid shot of each kid, at
your next session. Turn on the tape recorder. Tie in the photo shoot with
an exercise where they each have to sing their name. Four times. Or say
it rhythmically. Four times. Or eight.....

If the students come to you, have the classroom teacher make name tags for
them--or you do it yourself. You can either do the kind in plastic that pin
on, or especially for the younger ones (up to 3rd grade), laminate a card
with their name and put it on a piece of yarn to hang around their neck.
Especially if you make it colorful, they will love it.

Also there are several name games that I like to use for rhythm and/or
singing. These sometimes help the teacher with names, sometimes not. But it
helps the kids with singing & rhythm anyway and they usually enjoy it.
1. For 3rd grade & up (maybe some 2nd): Tell the children "Think of a place
and a food that start with the first letter of your name. It could be a city,
a state, or a country." (Example: Jennifer--Jerusalem--Jelly Beans) "We're
going to make a silly game with this, and put this to a steady beat pattern.
Pat once on your thighs, clap once, snap right hand, then your left--count
1-2-3-4." Get the pattern going. Find a child who has decided on a place &
fruit--or go around the whole room and ask. Help them if necessary. Then
pick one child's name to start with: start the rhythm pattern first. You
say: "Her name is Jennifer, she comes from Jerusalem, and she eats Jelly
Beans" Make the names fit in the 4 pattern with the correct syllabic accent.
Have the class repeat. Do several children--or the whole class, depending
on time--and ask them to see if they can do their own the next class time.
The object is to get all around the room from person to person without anyone
missing a beat. (Probably only will happen with the older ones, if at all.)
2. There is a "Telephone" game song where everyone can sing solos and then
call on a friend to be next. It can be found in the 3rd grade book of
McGraw-Hill "Share the Music" series, p. 356.

One year I had all of my students march in front of my video camera and say
their names slowly & distinctly. Then I went home and did my
homework---watching the tape & memorizing names.

A good way I've found is to use a video camera and quickly go around the
room and ask each person to identify themselves and tell you one or two
things (favorite food, best thing they did during the summer, favorite
reptile, whatever...). Take it home and watch it until you know their
names. Test yourself by muting the T.V.

Start with the seating plan and make the students stick to it. That and having the chart in hand (with big print lettering) really helps you learn the names. Otherwise you might want to ask the kids to bring in photos for a bulletin board "display" of their faces. That might please them and their "egos" and develop group spirit (AND help you learn their names at the same time)!!??

The only idea that I thought of was a video camera. You could tape each
your 1/2 classes sometime near the beginning of the term. Then you could
use the tape to work on matching the name to the face, and also it'd give
you a chance to practice more frequently. Another thing you could do is
review the names and faces of the classes that you expect to see the next
day the night before, so they'd be fresher on your mind. If you happen to
have a digital video, you could capture a representative face and attach it
to a flash card.

With my new HS students each year I take snapshots of each section of the
rehearsal room, and with the help of some of my students, make a matching
list of names. Then I stare a lot at both.

With my students at the beginning of the year, I do a rhythm name game
which goes around the room with students saying the name of the student
next to them. At the same time, to cue them in at the right place in
the rhythm, I also repeat both names. It helps me to get to know them
quickly. Any kind of hand jive pattern could work.

Take a picture, either individually or in small groups, and memorize from

Thanks again and I hope this helps the many who wrote who are in similar situations! I will repost if I recieve many more suggestions.


Stacey Campbell
Six To Six Interdistrict Magnet School
601 Pearl Harbor St.
Bridgeport, CT 06610
(203) 330-6775 x 207

on December 29, 2002 10:00pm
When I had a 2 choirs of about 70 each, I used color coded index cards--3 colors for 3 rows. First day, students line up by height and are seated according to height and a list of each row is made. Cards are made for each row with students' first names written LARGE in bold black marker on one side and complete names on the other side. Then the next day I had each row of students sit alphabetically by FIRST names.(I had the name cards in the chairs ahead of time and they found their seat.)Each rehearsal I would pass out cards, saying them as I passed them out. Having them alphabetically by first names helps me remember the names...A's to the left, etc. Students were instructed to hold up their name cards if they had a question, and I could call them by name. Cards are left in the seats at the end of class to be taken up in order and used next time. Later, as we were ready to sing parts, the cards were useful in recording range capabilities and other important information. Boys may have a separate section but done in a similar manner.
on July 31, 2004 10:00pm
Hi i'm a senior in HS Um we did a couple things in my theatre 1 class to learn names .. the exericse where u say ur name then a food the next person repeates what you just said and his name and a food .. by the time it gets around the very last person would have to say everyones name and their food it was a good memory game and we all got to know each other we had like 30 kids in a small class room .. so it was fun.

In choir we threw the ball around and said the name of the person we threw it to and we also sat in a cricle and introduced ourselves so that was ok too..

Hope this helps
on May 31, 2005 10:00pm
With my high school students, after the first day of school,I wait at the door for them and won't let anyone enter until I have told them their name. For the first few days, I am armed with a class roster, but by the end of the week, I usually know everyone without trouble. This does make for a crowded hallway for a day or two, but I have found that it is worth it.