Back to School Name Games August 31 2009, 1 Comment

One year, I called one of my students "Ashley" at least once a day. Which would have been fine, had that been her name. Her name was Audrey.

I knew her name was Audrey. It was some kind of weird brain block that even now I can't explain. So every day, at least once, I would call her "Ashley" and then apologize profusely. Toward the end of the year, we both gave up and she would answer to both names or I would just point at her.

I felt bad about that, because I genuinely believe that nothing is more important to us than OURSELVES. Each spring when you got your school yearbook, you flipped through it looking for your friends, right? No! You flipped through it looking for yourself!

So did I! And I also love my name - which, by the way, means "Strong Warrior." (It also means "Green," but that isn't as impressive). As teachers, we all know that on the First Day of School, top priority (after perfecting the chilling "teacher stare") is learning each kid's name.

In that spirit, here are a few Name Games to get you started! I plan on two or three that First Day - I usually find that one go at learning everyone's names isn't nearly enough, and by the afternoon a game is fun and relaxing for everyone anyway. 

Rolling Along

This game is great for including some movement and directing nervous-morning-of-the-First-Day-of-School-energy.

1. Sit in a circle with your class.
2. State your name and an unusual fact about yourself.
3. Roll a ball of any size to another student. At this point, they can just say his/her own name and a fact, or they can state your name and then his/her name.
4. Continue until everyone has had a turn.

Spider Web

This is similar to Rolling Along, except instead of a ball, use a large skein of yarn.

1. Sit in a circle with your class.
2. State your name and an unusual fact about yourself. Hold on to the end of the yarn.
3. Still holding onto your piece of yarn, roll the rest of the yarn to a student in the circle. At this point, they can just say his/her own name and a fact, or they can state your name and then his/her name.
4. When each student receives the yarn, he or she MUST continue to hold a piece of it.
5. Continue until everyone has had a turn. You should have an impressive web at the end, lending itself to a discussion about how we're all connected.

Candy Bar

This is my favorite game, because I love candy (just ask my pants). And you can learn a lot about people from what they choose as a favorite candy product.

This game is progressive, and you start. Which means that by the end of the game, you will have to state each person's name and candy product. Correctly.

1. Sit in a circle with your class.
2. Start the game by saying your name and your favorite candy bar or product.
3. The student to your right or left says your name and favorite candy product FIRST, then states his or her name and favorite candy product.
4. The student next to them states your name and favorite candy product, then the student who went after you, then his or her own.
5. Continue this pattern around the circle until it comes back to you.
6. State each person's name and favorite candy product.

It's a bit of a lengthy game, but kids find the subject matter compelling enough to stick with it, and they tend to help each other. You can celebrate at the end by actually having some candy to hand out, just for fun!

Fact or Fiction?

Technically, this isn't so much a Name Game as a Get-To-Know-You Game. It's good for sometime later in the week during a hot afternoon when the novelty of the new school year has worn off.

It's similar to "Two Truths and a Lie," but I didn't think it would be good to plant the idea that lying at school is acceptable...

1. Kids can be in a circle or at their desks.
2. On a 3x5 card or cut sentence strip, each student writes 2 facts about himself or herself and 1 piece of fiction. Unbreakable rule: THEY CANNOT SHARE THEIR INFORMATION.
3. Collect the cards and pick one, reading the two facts and one piece of fiction.
4. Call on kids to guess first who the card belongs to (3 to 5 tries). Option: A prize can go to whoever guesses correctly.
5. Have kids then vote on which "Fact" is actually a "Work of Fiction" and tally the votes.
6. The owner of the card reveals himself or herself and tells the class if they voted correctly.

Any game you choose is a fun way to learn your students' names, and even a bit more. Have fun!