How to Remember Student Names

With class rosters anywhere between 200-800, art teachers are the masters at remembering student names, but it sure isn’t easy! Some teachers use little name tents or name tags at first to help them remember. For some reason, this method never works for me, because I rely on the name tag too much and never really concentrate on remembering the name!

My trick? Alphabetize the students by first name!

When I get a new group of incoming kindergartners, I seat them alphabetically by first name. When Cory, Cody, and Carmen are all sitting together, knowing their names start with C is a good reminder!

To make this process faster, use the “sort” feature in the word processing program you prefer. Simply highlight your list, and it will put the names in ABC order for you. Easy!

I already know the names of my 1st – 5th graders, but if you’re new to a school, this is a great strategy to use for all of your classes!

I also organize my seating charts by day, not by grade level, so I can easily find a certain class,or just keep the seating chart and grade book (which I house together) open for that day’s teaching. It helps! I secure these with rings and put them on a clipboard. This gives me the flexibility to add pages, change things around and flip the chart quickly.

I do blank, hand- written seating charts designed for my triangle shaped room (old school) and use pencil. I move kids around as I see fit throughout the year and want to keep a current copy on hand at all times, especially for subs. Erasing and changing the second I make a seating change for behavior or accommodation is very handy.

Any other seating chart or name memory tips for art teachers out there? 

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • I handwrite my seating charts to allow changes, too. I also find that looking and saying the name as much as possible helps. At first, I pass back artwork so I can say the name and match the art to the face. I would try your alphabet grouping thing except I always seem to have “multiples” in the same class! Last year in one class I had Caley, Kalee, and Kalee. I also had a class with 3 Madison’s! I don’t know why they don’t think about that…

    • last year I had a fourth grade class with 2 Haley B’s, 3 Destiny’s and 2 Cadan/Caidins! I already looked – and the Haley’s and Cadan’s are still together. But it does make it easy in some instances “Haleys, go collect the papers…”

  • Amy

    I put my new kiddos in A-Z order too! I put all my student names on mini post-its, place each class’s seating chart in a plastic page protector, and then those go in a binder organized by day. While it takes a lot of time to initially write all the kids names on the post-its, I’ve used the same ones for going on 4 years! I just rearrange the post-its when a student needs a new seat, someone moves or when it’s a new school year!

    • teachkidsart

      I use post-its for writing names on seating charts, too…. beats erasing every time someone gets moved!

  • Dale

    Yes, I have seating charts in a notebook by the day. This is also helpful for a sub. My worst problem is calling a student by their brother’s or sister’s name. I know some of my younger students are going to be glad that their sibling has moved on to sixth grade.

    • Vivian

      I can surely relate. I do the same and I’d wondered why, before I even know they were brothers, but then it made sense… :)

  • Kathy Olson

    Hope I can describe what I do so you will get a picture of it. Sorry, no photos. I have my own art room so at each of my tables I have a metal bookend. I drilled 2 holes at the top of each bookend, and use 2 loose leaf rings to hold tagboard squares. With a black marker I write the names of the students by class on the squares and at the end of each period students flip the card to the next class. I can easily glance at the card and call out the student’s name. I can make new cards when table groups change. Hope this makes sense. It works really well for me.

    • Karen

      I like the idea. It seems like a lot of initial work, but my individual name cards/tents are driving me crazy. The kids are constantly rearranging them or stacking them all up into one pile. Last year they never did this. I hate having to carry around a seating chart and I love having the names there especially w/ little ones when I am putting readable names on their papers. This would also save a lot of time putting the name stack out 2 times each day.

    • Britt Olson

      Weird Cathy, ive worked on a cart for two years and the classrooms always have name tags on desks so I’m in my own room next year and planned to do the exact same thing!! I’m an art teacher too and my last names Olson. What a coincidence Lolol

  • Anonymous

    Jessica, I am prepping for the school year and plan to implement a ton of your ideas this year. Although not a new teacher, it is exciting and refreshing to try new things and your toolkit is great! I can’t wait to start the new year by using a few of them!

  • Jessica, I am prepping for the new year and can’t wait to use some for your techniques and ideas! Although not a new teacher, I am inspired, refreshed, and excited to steal a few tools from your tool kit!

  • Fabulous Idea! I’m totally doing this:) THANKS

  • CherriR

    Last year I started using an iPad app. Teacherkit let’s you set up each class, photo each student, arrange students ABC order or seating chart, mark attendance, record grades, track behavior… It is easy and fun to use! I can also look at the students photos at home if I want to double check a student’s name.

  • Amy

    On each table I placed a dry erase white strip. At the start of each class stds write their names. It is so helpful to see and good writing practice for them. They erase at the end of class.

  • Lian Brehm

    I put out name cards- and have been doing so for 17+ years. Students can
    earn “free choice seats” for the following week if they are all on task
    and working without conflicts. It’s a great way to learn their names
    and start the year out. I keep the name cards in a file box that runs as
    the schedule goes. The best part is that I can place post its notes
    regarding behavior, earning free choice seats the following week or
    anything, and I will see them when I pull the cards out just before
    their class comes in. I can arrange according to how they work well
    together, keep certain students apart if needed, place students who have
    more distractions, or need to be closer to the board, etc. where I
    want. They know it is random, we discuss it at the beginning of the year
    and they own that. I also ask them to write any projects that they want
    to explore on the back of their card the first week of school and can
    check on that throughout the year. I can control the mix of what works
    best when I use this system and further into the year they earn free
    choice seats more often. When teaching or moving about the room I can
    clearly see their name tags and address them by name. It sure helps me
    to learn their names quicker.

  • Gloria BUdz

    I am a middle level art teacher. Placing students in ANY kind of alphabetical order does not meet IEP, 504, IE. (other) special needs of my students. I always have preferential seating requests for students and there are often preferences within those. For example, not only front of room seating but may say not near a door or any windows. It is VERY complicated at times. Vision issues, hearing issues, the list goes on and on.
    Thanks to a school membership with our recycling for education program, I have an abundance of sticky note or adhesive pads so I plan on having students use them as name tags for next year and I will have them PRINT in black sharpie and ask that they make the letters as big as they can so I can read it from a distance. I apologize for the run-on sentence! :) I have made reusable name cards on string that I coilected and placed in envelopes in the past. This did help but it was a nuisance and cut into class time.,