Getting to Know Your Students

Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

Welcome to Welcome Week! Week 1 is just around the corner, and with it brings a new cohort of students to meet and engage. Each of these students has a name, a unique history and identity. Getting to know your students is one of the greatest joys of being a teacher. But we also know it can be a challenge (particularly in large classes).

Learning names

While you may not have the opportunity to get to know every single student in your classrooms, learning your students’ names is a crucial step to making your students feel valued and respected.

This Faculty Focus article emphasises the importance of knowing your students’ names, as well as learning how to pronounce them. The article also includes some simple strategies to help you remember them.

Here are a few strategies for remembering names:

  • While taking attendance in the first class, take the time to learn pronunciation and preferred names. In subsequent classes, walk around and tick students off the roll as they are engaged in discussions. If you forget, ask their name until you have it memorised.
  • At the beginning of semester, ask your students to place nametags on the desk in front of them. Collect the name tags at the end of class and hand them out in the next few sessions as you try to learn their names.
  • Ask students to sit in the same place for the first few classes and make a named plan of this seating.
  • Remind students to say their name before they speak.
  • Request that your students upload a current photo of themselves on Canvas as a profile picture.

While it may take you some time to learn names, just let students know that you are a making an effort and ask them to be patient. They will appreciate your honesty and the reminder that you are a human too!

For more tips on learning students’ names, check out the following resources:

Getting personal

Icebreakers are a great way to put students at ease with one another, while providing an opportunity for you and your students to learn each other’s names. It is often easier to learn your students’ names when you know something about them as individuals.

One of my favourite icebreakers – “Web of Connections” – helps to do just this. You will need a ball of yarn or string, and I put the following instructions on a PowerPoint slide:


  1. As the first person holding the ball of yarn, state your name, then list 2-3 ‘facts’ about yourself. For example: “My name is Alex. I was born in Hungary, I ride my bike to uni, I have 2 dogs…”
  2. Hopefully by this stage, someone in the group will have found something to connect with– and they then shout “CONNECT!”
  3. The person with the ball of yarn throws it to that person, they then introduce themselves and start to list ‘facts’ about themselves until someone else connects with them.
  4. They throw the ball to that person. And on it goes.


  • Everyone has a go at connecting with someone else in the group (so if you’ve already connected, you stay quiet).
  • And we will continue to connect until everyone has had a go.

What I love about this activity is the end result – a web of connections which provides a visual representation of your newly formed connected learning community.

For more icebreaker ideas, check out the following resources:

Inclusion and student welfare

Getting to know your students and their names is not just a ‘nice to have’ but is essential for teaching inclusively and supporting students at risk. As well as a large international cohort, many of our students may be struggling with other issues that affect the way they learn or that have an impact on their wellbeing.

Teaching staff are often the first point of contact for students, and therefore, play a central role in identifying struggling students and encouraging them to access support. Before you meet your first cohort of students, you should familiarise yourself with the University’s services that are available to support students.

Keep a copy of this list handy, and make sure your tutors/ sessional staff have a copy too:

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