Nameplates may seem like an inconsequential part of a student’s learning materials, but they can be quite useful and have genuine meaning to the individual student. As a teacher, you may have your nameplate on a desk or door. Imagine someone stealing or defacing it. You can’t help but feel personal about it. Nameplates for students are exactly the same.
Years ago, when I was still experimenting, I created laminated name cards for all my students. One student lost his card. He recreated the card at home and his mother carefully wrapped the card in cellophane. I was so touched by their efforts. This told me how important the card was to the student. Name plates quickly became a regular part of my classes.
Why take the trouble to create nameplates when students have name badges? Though a name badge pinned to a student’s chest is convenient for teachers and parents, they’re inconvenient for students. When a student looks at their badge, it’s not only awkward to see, it’s upside down! Nameplates, on the other hand, are for the students. I make sure they’re not only personalized but useful as well. If I had to make a choice between name badges or plates, nameplates would win — hands down.
Many teachers with full-time students will laminate name cards directly to a desk or table. I don’t have that luxury. My students change every hour going from three-year-olds in the early afternoon to fifth and sixth-grade students in the evening. I repeat this each day of the week in multiple classrooms across the city where I teach. Just like attendance stickers, nameplates are part of a class routine that benefits me (I have a hard time remembering names) and the students.
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The name plates I create will vary. Usually, they are simple paper ‘tents’ printed on heavy card stock. They fold out to stand on desks and flatten easily to tuck in a bag. I don’t laminate them unless it is a double-sided card. Whether card or tent, I look at the reverse side as educational real estate for charts. My kids get new name plates every few years depending on their age, with the reverse-side charts focusing on some aspect of their English studies; e.g., ABCs, numbers, colors, bugs, maps, etc. From third grade, I also include their names in cursive writing.
Of the three game modals — matching, ordering and discovery — there are activities you can use with your name plates that involve all three. Below are 13 activities to try out in class.
Note: I learned early on NOT to play games where students can lose their name card to another player. It can upset them! Make sure that when you use name plates they are not the object of trade between players during a game.
1. Name Search When young students receive their name cards, for the first few weeks collect the name cards at the end of each class. At the beginning of the next class, arrange their name cards on a table. During roll call, each student must collect their card from the table. Keep a watch over this activity as mistakes will be made!
2. Seating Use the name cards to determine seating arrangements. Collect all the cards and redistribute them according to your intended activity or arrangement. Students must locate their new seats or desks. This works well to prepare for games, break up cliques, or get students working with different partners during activities.
3. Line Up #1 No doubt, lining kids up to play a game or go home is an important part of class routines. Using their nameplates, have kids line up in alphabetical order. With your littlest kids, point to the ABCs and ask them if their name begins with A, B, or C, etc. This kind of ordering is a preliminary exercise that aligns itself with phonics and dictionary work later on! If your cards have birthdays, have the kids line up in the order of the months. With practice, older kids learn to negotiate their place in line themselves.
4. Line Up #2 I call this fun activity “Roll Out” and it works great as a method for lining kids up. Think of a luggage conveyer belt in an airport. Have kids sit in a tight circle on the floor. Slowly begin streaming student name cards into the circle with students passing the cards around the circle left to right. When a student’s own name card lands in her hands, she rolls backwards out of the circle and gets in line. Keep the cards circulating until all the students identify their own card. Mistakes will be made so be ready to jump in when necessary. Sometimes it will take two or three passes for a student to recognize their card — and that’s OK.
5. Early Finishers If you have early finishers, have students write all their classmates’ names in alphabetical order.
6. Chants Line up all the names on a table and recite your favorite choosing chant. Do this regularly and you’ll be surprised how quickly students pick up and enjoy the language.
7. Choosing Teams To divide students into teams, collect all their cards, and randomly pull each name out of a box.
8. Who’s Turn? When playing a whole-class game where students take turns such as Bingo, put all the players’ names in a box or basket. After one student has taken their turn drawing a Bingo card, they then pull a name card out of the box to choose the next student’s turn.
9. Discovery! Try a quick discovery game using students’ names! Using a piece of paper with a large hole cut out of the center, move the piece of paper all around a name card so students can only see parts of the name. Do the same activity by covering the whole name with a sheet of paper, slowly revealing the name, end to front. Help students out by sounding out the visible letters until a student recognizes her name.
10. Spell it Out! Collect all the students’ name cards. Verbally spell out each name. When a student recognizes his name, return their card. Prep students for this activity by setting students up with the task of spelling out their names for you as they point to the letters on their card. ‘How do you spell…’ is an oft-heard question in my classroom.
11. Name Bingo Because names are already printed on their cards, no prep needed! If using game markers, students cover each letter as they are drawn at random. If the cards are laminated, use whiteboard markers. Keep this in your arsenal of games if, for any reason, you need to fill time, keep students busy, or have an unexpected change in the day’s lesson plan. It happens. It’s also a quick and fun game for students of all ages.
12. Memory Game As your students become better able to read their classmate’s names, try a memory game! Place three students’ cards on the board. Turn your back and have a student-helper turn over one card. Turn back around and guess the hidden name. Don’t forget to sound out and read the visible cards as well. Continue to add cards for each round. Remember, it’s fun for students to sometimes see the teacher struggle!
13. Matching When introducing cursive to your students, write all their names in cursive on the board. Collect all the students’ name cards and ask students to match the name cards to their cursive equivalent.
Over time, and with exposure, kids will gradually start reading and recognizing their classmates’ names. This is perfect as I expect my upper elementary kids to take attendance each week — an activity students love to do and sometimes use to spoof my language. It’s OK. I can take a roasting. They just don’t realize how proud I am they learned to read each other’s names. Nameplates undoubtedly help me get students to that level.
I hope these 13 activities spark some ideas for your own classes! Give them a try and let me know how it goes in the comments below! If you’re interested in any of the nameplate templates pictured above, be sure to visit my store to learn more!
Kinney Brothers Publishing