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Learn Each Others’ Names Or Else!

I’m not usually an advocate of violence, nor would I like to imagine the TEFL Logue as some kind of cookbook for student abuse. So I’ll distance myself from the activity I’m about to present by letting you know that it was a Belgian colleague who either came up with it or passed it on…and I have never actually used it so far but would love to find a way to adapt it.

The point is to learn names. Students who have just met each other stand in a circle, facing the center. One student stands in the center with a rolled up newspaper. (!)

The teacher starts by calling out the name of one student. That student has to call out the name of another student – any other student. When that student hears his or her name, he then repeats and has to call out the name of another student.

The task of person in the middle is to find the person whose name has been called and hit them on the legs with the rolled up newspaper before that person calls out another name. Or it could even be before their nominee calls out another name. Obviously this is hard! It only takes a second to call out another name. You can imagine the poor soul in the middle spinning around lashing out with the newspaper. If you’re just meeting the class, you probably haven’t identified a student you don’t like, so putting that person in the middle is not an option. The best thing to do is put a confident – and if possible fast on his feet – student there.

If the person in the middle manages to hit the named person on the legs before they call out another name, that person takes over the middle position.

The goal is to have fun and to practice each others’ names. It is obviously easy for the people in the circle to just call out the same name each time, and there is little you can do to prevent this, other than maybe making it a rule. But they do have to be paying attention so they are ready if their name is called.

I learned this at a seminar with a group of teachers, and we took on false names to simulate what it would be like to really be new students and not know people’s names (I was Alexandra, thank you very much).. The person in the middle (probably the Belgian teacher – you never know what to expect from those guys!) was in fact fast enough to make it out.

I think I would exercise restraint with which groups I’d use this with. I’d be cautious with kids groups because it could get out of hand easily, not to mention the risk of your young students coming home bruised. And I can imagine plenty of fun-loving adults who would really not go for this. But as a group of mainly twenty-something teachers, we thought this was okay for us.