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Links to my published articles online
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Adolescent Diary Weblogs and the Unseen Audience

Conversations in the Blogosphere: An Analysis "from the Bottom Up". Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-38) Best Paper Nominee.

Weblogs as a bridging genre

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Common Visual Design Elements of Weblogs

Women and Children Last: The Discursive Construction of Weblogs

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The Performativity of Naming: Adolescent Weblog Names as Metaphor

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New books are added but reading status is rarely accurate.

February 13, 2006

Remembering names of students and others

I am terrible with names, it was one of my deep dark secrets as an HR person. You see I often remembered lots of details about employees, which department they worked in, who was their supervisor, how many kids they had, and lots of unusual information that ones sees in an HR roll. Now that I am teaching classes of 40+ my problem is a much more apparent. I simply have a terrible time with names, so this Inside Higher Ed article, What's Your Name Again? by Mary McKinney, caught my eye. Here is their advise on remembering student names.

How To Learn Student Names:

1. Make it a priority. Focusing on any goal is the first step towards making it happen.

2. Read the registrar's list before the first class.Pay attention to the names that may be difficult to pronounce.

3. Take roll call on the first day of class. Take your time, pay close attention and repeat each student's name. Make sure that you have the proper pronunciation. If a student's name is unfamiliar be sure to ask explicitly if you've got it right. Students who are shy, or from cultures where greater deference to authority is the norm, may hesitate to correct you unless prompted and yet will still find it grating to be referred to incorrectly the entire semester.

4. Ask the students what they prefer to be called and be sure to write down nicknames on the class roster. You may want to preface your roll call with a request for nicknames: while you are likely to wonder whether Elizabeth whether goes by "Liz" or "Beth", you'll have no idea that Amy Jones goes by "A.J."

5. If you have access to students' photos, use them to familiarize yourself with names as part of your preparation in the first weeks of class. My client Jim had been unaware that he had access to student I.D. photos until he checked with the registrar.

6. If there are no photos available, consider taking your own photographs. In Tools for Teaching, Barbara Gross Davis suggests taking Polaroid shots of students and pasting them on index cards with the students' names and other personal information. Creating class "I.D. cards" is even easier with access to digital cameras.

7. Often it is most difficult to remember foreign students' names, which may be unfamiliar to Western ears. Be sure to write a phonetic version of the name if needed. For example, in one of my classes the name of a Chinese student was transliterated as Xiou -- but pronounced something like "Shaw."

8. A common memory trick is to link the name with something or someone else - thus my student Xiou became the unforgettable George Bernard "Shaw" in my mind.

9. Think of another person you know who has the same first name as the student. Then make a link using a visual image. For example, I imagine my short-haired brunette student Susan with the wild grey mane of my cousin Susan, who hadn't changed the style of her coiffure since the late 1960's. The incongruous image cements the student's name in my cortex.

10. Use humor in your associative links to make a lasting impression. I kept getting confused about whether a student was Egla or Elga until I imagined her with a hard-boiled Egg of a head.

11. Find a rhyme to create mental associations: Is Jim slim? Or an adjective that tips you off about the name's first letter: Is Thomas tall? Can you visualize Sarah in a sarong? Again, humor helps. Thus Slim Jim becomes a life-size stick of dried beef sausage. And Sarah, well, sarongs fall off easily, right? (Need I admonish you that the mnemonic devises should be kept to yourself?)

12. Use your students' names frequently both to call on them to participate and to refer to previous points made in the discussion. Davis points out that this technique can be used in even very large classes: Ask students their name when they make a comment and later refer to it as "Jeff's point" or "Audrey's contribution."

13. When you take roll, consider creating a map of the seating arrangement labeled with student's names. I'm always surprised at how consistently students sit in the same seats, or at least the same quadrant of the room. In my small classes, we sit around a large table and for the first few classes I write down who chooses to sit where as students arrive. Writing the names down also helps commit them to memory. Some professors ask students to sit in the same seats for a few classes, a request that communicates their earnest efforts to learn names. I prefer to keep my mnemonic methods mysterious. Either way works.

14. Using name tags for the first few class sessions can help students learn one another's names at the same time it helps you. I ask my students to write their first names in very large letters so that I can read them from the front of the classroom.

15. When teaching very large classes it is tempting to give up. Resist the temptation. Try learning five names per class and try to use those names.

16. One professor I know uses name cards for her large classes. Students pick up the cards as they file into class and place them at the front of their desks. This United Nations style name card strategy is also useful because the tags that aren't retrieved indicate absent students.

17. With any sized class, look at registrar's list during week and see how many faces you can recall.

18. Make sure you know the names of students who visit you during office hours. Take a few minutes to ask the students about themselves, their major, where they are from, etc. Personal contact is one of the ways you can increase the effectiveness of your teaching.

Becoming an expert at memorizing names is a small but respectful step toward demonstrating personal investment in your students' well-being. Building a mutually respectful relationship with students is as important as having an organized lesson plan, giving a dynamic lecture, or encouraging enthusiastic class participation. Positive student-teacher relationships foster engagement and achievement.

Posted by prolurkr at February 13, 2006 02:47 PM

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