The Name Game – 2020 Edition

Early on at the beginning of each semester, I set aside a day for what I call The Name Game. The “Game” requires each student to come to the front of the room, introduce themselves, and then use a prop or some way to help us remember their name. (Admittedly I stole the idea from a Marketing Professor I team-taught with one year).

It’s a fun class, there’s a lot of creative props, and it’s a helpful way for me to get to know the students’ names more quickly. In addition to the prop, as part of each student’s presentation, they have to say the name of everyone that went before them. They don’t know this last part in advance, so that guy in the back row corner seat has to say everyone’s name, while the person who goes first only has to say her own name.

During the class prior to the Name Game, I share a few examples of what students have done in the past. Two such examples stick out. Once, a young woman stood up in front of the class, and after introducing herself (her last name was Sprotte), she took a roll of toilet paper out of her backpack, and said, “My name is *** Sprotte, “you’ll remember me the next time you’re on the potty.” That was an effective prop, I remembered her name immediately.

Another example I share is of a young man who stepped in front of the class and then proceeded to rip open his shirt, buttons flying everywhere. He then took a stapler out of his backpack and started stapling his chest and abs. Somewhere along the way, he said his name, but I was too dumbfounded to hear much of what he was saying. So while it was an impressive feat of pain tolerance, it didn’t help too much with getting to know his name.

A few weeks before the start of this semester, I had planned to do the Name Game using Zoom, since we were not sure how many students could be in a classroom all at once, and I wanted to do everybody on the same day There are pros and cons to doing such a class over Zoom. I did it this summer, but that was while the students were at home. That gave the students access to props such as pets, posters, and sports memorabilia. Since all the students are on campus this semester, some of those opportunities would not be available.

However, shortly before classes started this semester I found out that my class would be 100% face-to-face, which meant we could do the Name Game in the classroom. Well, last Friday was the big day, and once again the students came through with some clever props.

One student had asked me the class before if it was OK if he did a karate kick since he had a black belt and he thought would be a good way for people to remember him. I said that would be great, and then he said it would be better if someone stood in front of him to put the kick in perspective. I said that makes sense, and then he asked if I would be that person. I said sure, and I must admit that I was a little nervous when it was his turn. He announced to the class that he would first do one basic kick, and then a 360 roundhouse kick. Now I was really nervous. Fortunately, he pulled it off perfectly, although I could feel the wind brush past me while he kicked.

Here were some others:

  • a student named Jack brought a box with him, and when it was his turn he stood in front of the room, put the box on the floor, and stepped inside it. Yep, Jack-in-the-box…
  • a student solved Rubik’s Cube while saying the names of the other students in class…
  • a student had her dad send a video of him announcing her name like at a wrestling match
  • a student read a poem he had written just for the name game (a future Brad Osborne!)
  • a student had the class sing along to a little ditty he had written based on his name:

Trevor, Trevor, bo-brevor
Banana-fana fo-frevor

This is just a small sample; every single student managed to come up with something creative related to their name or themselves.

I’m always impressed with how comfortable students are in front of the class, and not embarrassed if they can’t remember someone’s name. The students seem to enjoy the class, and the chance to get to know each other a little bit. I’ve also noticed that each student pays close attention to everyone’s name and the prop, particularly if they have to repeat that name. They also pay close attention to see if students remember their name.

I also participate in the Name Game. I use the same prop each time, doing a little bit of juggling with bean bags. I also go last so that I have to say everyone’s name. The students are watching me intently, waiting to see if I will remember their name.

It’s clear that people care about their names, and want others to know what it is. The Name Game reinforces the importance of a person’s name.

So for the next couple of weeks, I will continue to go over the notes I took as each student presented so that I can get to know their names as quickly as I can.


44 thoughts on “The Name Game – 2020 Edition

    1. it is a fun day; although this semester will be a challenge to get to know all their names. I have 125 students, and the masks and social distancing makes it more difficult than usual

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  1. This is a great way to learn or try to learn names. I bet the students really like it. I know I would have enjoyed changing up the regular class routine like this. 😄 I wonder if people will recognize each other without masks?

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  2. You are a brave man, Jim. I can see the headlines now: Villanova Professor Laid Out in Class 🤣

    I’m always amazed at how much overlap that we have despite us teaching at entirely different levels. I did something similar with names on the first day of school. Each student had to either think of one thing they liked that started with their name (Jim likes jellybeans) or something fun they had done during the summer. (My name is Pete. This summer, I drove a dog sled in Alaska.) We did the same thing where each person had to remember those who had come before them.

    Intentionally stapling one’s chest—No wonder you were in shock. Believe it or not, I have a similar story. One day a kid (6th grader-definitely old enough to know better) comes up in tears one day with a staple in his finger. After I advised him how to remove it, I asked him how it happened. He said, “I wanted to know what it felt like.” Sounds a lot like your student with masochistic tendencies.

    I got a chuckle

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    1. I was thinking of the same sort of headline…

      And that is amazing how much we have in common despite the different grade levels.

      Do you know if that kid with the staple in his finger ended up going to Villanova? 🙂

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  3. What a fun and creative way for your students and yourself to get to know each other. Yes, it ends up being a great way to remember their names, but it also lets the students put a little of themselves out there to be shared with their colleagues. I will admit I am taken by the budding poet in class. I am having a ball just thinking of things I would do to play in the game. Great post, Jim! Best of luck as the semester winds on!

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    1. it’s an assignment that accomplishes a lot of things, as you note. It’s also a relatively easy way to work on your public speaking skills; this was the first of four such opportunities in the class. I knew you would like the budding poet…

      Have a great weekend, Brad!

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  4. what a great beginning, and so good to read about all of the creativity that they brought to the game. glad you survived the kicks and you were able to call upon your clowning roots with a bit of juggling. you never know where your skills will come in handy.

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  5. What a great way to get the students involved and learning each other’s names, and such fun too. I hope you’ll be introducing Trevor to a particular one of Ian Dury’s songs – my boss for most of my last ten years at work was called Trevor and it became a running gag between us that when he said something clever I’d just say ‘Ian’ to remind him 😉


  6. This is really impressive, Jim. I bet it facilitates learning as well as bonding the class – and a whole bunch of other benefits. Nothing like that EVER happened when I was at university; but, then, we’re British 🙂

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    1. it is a fun day with a lot of benefits. I would have never thought of using it if I hadn’t team taught with another faculty member who came up with the idea…


  7. Omg this is such a fun way to get to know everyone’s name! In one of my classes we played the picnic game where everyone has to say what their name is and then pick an item to bring to the “picnic” that starts with the same letter as their name so for example I would say my name is Pooja and I brought pie.

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