The Name Game: How Do You Remember 165 Student Names?

Please join us in welcoming another guest blogger, Steve Innamarato.  A TCI Teacher Consultant, former moderator of our Classroom Technology discussion group, and all around tech guru, Steve will be sharing his perspective on teaching high school students in an urban district.

I’ve been teaching for about 15 years now in one of the most diverse and sometimes challenging districts in the country. Philadelphia is a district that is plagued by many of the same difficulties that exist in all inner-city districts – poverty, low standardized test scores, over-crowded classrooms, high dropout rates, etc.  I taught for over 10 years at Olney High School in Philadelphia. Olney could be a poster child for No Child Left Behind and was plagued by all of the aforementioned problems. This year will mark my fifth year teaching at Central High School, which is the exact opposite of my previous school. Central is the second oldest public high school in the country and is “magnet” school. Simply put, students need to apply to go to Central. The school is extremely diverse, with demographics that mirror that of the population of Philadelphia. It is a high achieving school with many graduates moving on to schools like the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell and Harvard.
Despite being a veteran teacher, I still get very nervous at the beginning of the year. I am always trying to improve what I do on the first few days to set the stage for a good year. After the icebreakers, having the students fill out some emergency card information and going over the class rules and expectations, I always have the same challenge: getting to know the names of my students. This task seems to get harder every year, and I wonder if after teaching over 2,200 students in my career, my memory tank for names is full and that’s why I have such a hard time. Despite creating seating charts, nametags, using memory association strategies, it seems to take me almost the first month of school to get to know everyone. Every teacher knows how important it is to know your students as soon as possible for classroom management but also to make a needed connection right from the start.  
This year I am teaching three periods of 11th grade US History (using History Alive! Pursuing American Ideals) and two periods of 12th graders for social science (using Government Alive! and Econ Alive!).  Each class has 33 students, giving me a grand total of 165 students for this school year.

So my question to everyone is:  what are some techniques you have used to help make you familiar with the names of this many students in a short amount of time?

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