Learning names can be equally daunting for both students and teachers. It’s not just the act of associating names with faces that’s a challenge, but also accurately pronouncing and spelling names. It’s important to get student names right because kids are more likely to feel like they’re part of an inclusive environment when they hear their name pronounced correctly. While some names are more commonplace than others, all students deserve the same respect when it comes to learning names. In fact, it might be especially important to pronounce refugee students’ names correctly. Name games are a fun way to help everyone learn together.
Whether you choose to use a song, a silly skit, or a prop, we have games on this list that will bring a smile to the faces of all students, from preschoolers all the way up to those sometimes-surly teens. Check out all of our favorite name games to try with your class this year.
1. Action Syllables
This game helps students remember one another’s names while also reinforcing an important lesson on syllables. Have students stand in a circle and then go around one by one telling each player to say their name out loud. For each syllable in their name, they must select an action to perform. For example, a child named Harper might stomp her feet when saying “Har” and clap her hands while saying “per.” Once Harper is done saying her name, the rest of the circle should repeat the name with the coinciding actions.
Learn more: Kid Activities
2. Banana Fanna Fo Fanna
This classic children’s song has been a staple of childhood for generations because it’s both catchy and a good way to learn friends’ names. The only downside is that it will likely be stuck in your head for days!
The introductions game is simple but silly enough to be a lot of fun. One by one, students walk onto a pretend stage and introduce themselves with their name and one fact about themselves. The facts can be as silly or playful as they want. The audience must then break into uproarious laughter.
4. The Story of My Name
This one is so simple. Have each student share their name and whatever they know about why they were given that name. Students can share things like who they were named after or if there is a funny or interesting story surrounding their name.
5. Repeating Back
This one is a simple concept, but it’s a quick way for everyone to learn one another’s names. Have students sit or stand in a circle and then take turns having everyone say their name. Once someone has said their name, everyone in the circle repeats it back in unison. Although it can be nerve-racking to stand in front of everyone and speak, there is something validating about having everyone repeat your name!
6. Name Toss
Before introducing a ball into the mix, simply go around the circle and have everyone introduce themselves with just their first name. Once everyone has introduced themselves, have them toss a ball to someone and use their name when throwing. The receiver then needs to say “thanks” and the thrower’s name.
7. Web of Names
Unlike some name games, this one involves a prop, so it gives students something to focus on other than their nerves. Sit in a circle and have one person start with a ball of string that they will then throw to anyone. That person must then introduce themselves. They hold on to a piece of the string while throwing the rest of the ball to another person for the game to continue.
8. Guess Who
Kids take turns wearing a blindfold and recognizing their fellow classmates’ names by voice only. Each kid says something simple like “hello” and the guesser has to say who is speaking.
Learn more: Bright Hub Education
9. Name Puzzles
Name puzzles can work equally well as a tool to get to know each other and as a way to learn to recognize and spell their own name. Before doing this activity with your students, you will need to take and print photos of each child. Then, you can write their names on the bottom of the photos or have them do it. Just cut them up to create puzzles and then have students assemble them. Finally, trade puzzles so friends get to know one another.
Learn more: Tot Schooling
All you need to make this game happen is a blanket or tarp. Before getting started, divide the kids into two equal groups. Then, have two students or adults hold a blanket or tarp between the two groups. One person from each team stands on either side of the “wall,” and the first to yell out the other one’s name when the blanket or tarp drops wins!
Learn more: Ultimate Camp Resource
11. Missing Name Card Game
Write everyone’s name down on cards and lay them down on a table. Then remove one card and see if the class can identify whose name is missing.
12. Shoe Mingle
Before playing, have each student (and you!) take off one shoe and place them in a pile in the middle of the room. Once that is done, have everyone grab a shoe from the pile (not their own). Then, have them find the owner of the shoe and learn their name and three fun facts about them. Play as many times as you want until everyone knows each other’s names!
Learn more: Icebreakers
13. Trading Cards
Since most kids love collecting trading cards (think Pokémon and baseball), they’ll love this fun name game. Have kids create their very own trading card that includes things like their name, a drawing or photo of themselves, and some fun facts about themselves. Then, trade cards with friends to get to know all about each other. Don’t forget to include a trading card for the teachers and other staff also!
Learn more: Go Retro
14. Zombie Name Game
We especially love name games that get kids up and moving like this one. Before playing, have the kids stand in a circle and take turns saying their names. Then, designate one student as the zombie and have them stand in the middle of the circle. Once the zombie is ready, call out a student’s name. The zombie heads toward that student, who must call out another student’s name before the zombie can tag them.
Learn more: Beat by Beat Press
15. Name Line/Favorite Thing
This one is so simple yet so fun and challenging. Have students form a line or circle and then have the first student say their name and a favorite thing. The next student in line must say their name, their favorite thing, and the favorite thing of the person who went before them. This continues down the line until the last person is naming all of their classmates’ favorite things!
16. Name in a Box
Students sit in a circle and one child goes into the middle and squats down with their arms covering their head (to simulate being in a box). Everyone chants a nursery rhyme while the person in the middle pops up like a jack-in-the-box at the appropriate times.
Learn more: Ultimate Camp Resource
17. Bumblebee Name Game
Some of the best name games utilize songs. Music teacher Olivia Benson demonstrates how to use this fun bumblebee song to help young children remember their classmates’ names.
18. Nameless Name Game
Some name games like this one work best with older students since it requires a lot of quick thinking. Students come up with an adjective that both begins with the first letter of their name and describes themselves. Then, they say their adjective and name and come up with a movement to go along with it. Finally, everyone goes around the circle adding to the list of names, adjectives, and movements.
19. Clapping Name Game
We love a name game that incorporates music and motion while working on name recognition. The teacher in this video walks through a clapping name game that is perfect for younger students who are just getting to know one another.
20. Thumbs Up!
Many parents and teachers probably remember playing this game in school decades ago. Three students are selected as the taggers while the rest of the students sit with their heads down and their thumbs up. The taggers go around and each select a student to put their thumb down. Once that is done, the tagged students get one chance to guess who tagged them. If they are right, they get to trade places.
21. Teacher Test
Name games are not just for students! This is the perfect first-day-of-school activity to really get to know your students. Your kids will love getting to put their teacher to the test instead of the other way around. During the days leading up to the start of school, you will want to create name-tag “tents” from card stock for students to leave on their desks. Then, at the end of the first day, you will have them put their tents face down and time you on how quickly you can go around the room naming your class!
Learn more: WeAreTeachers/How To Learn Your Students’ Names
22. Name Anagrams
This is a simple but creative way to help everyone get to know each other’s names. Have kids create name anagrams and then laminate them and either hang them on the front of their desks or on a wall in the classroom. An example would be FIAZ, with the F being friendly, the I being interesting, the A being awesome, and the Z being zealous.
23. Johnny Plays the Drum Beat
This is a great way for music teachers to get to know their students, although any teacher that has access to even a basic drum can use this fun song in their class. We especially love that even the shyest kids will want to get their hands on that drum! Pay careful attention to pronouncing everyone’s names right since it is an important part of a welcoming and inclusive environment for all!
24. Name Ring Toss
Before playing this game, you will need to purchase or ask for donations of red Solo cups and paper plates. To begin, have each child write each letter of their name on the bottom of the cups. Then, cut a hole in a paper plate that will serve as a flying disc to aim at the letters. Finally, have students practice spelling one another’s names and throwing the ring around each of the letters.
Learn more: Hands On As We Grow
25. Pig on Their Head
The Laurie Berkner Band is famous for their silly and catchy children’s songs, and this song is no exception! Little ones will have so much fun singing this song, they won’t even notice that they are also learning their friends’ names!
26. Name Impulse
Kids will get really into this name game since it aims to set a new world record! We love that it is a surefire way for everyone to remember one another’s names.
27. Group Juggle
This is a variation on name toss, but it’s better suited to older kids. Begin with everyone in a circle and then have them toss the ball to one another. Have them repeat it a second time, but in the exact order as the first time. Make it harder each round by adding balls or even reversing the order.
28. Pizza Pizza Daddy Oh
Scroll to the 5:09 timestamp in this video from Becca’s Music Room to learn how to sing this silly name-game song. It’s perfect for upper elementary school–age kids.
Make up a song or use the one at the link below that includes lyrics like “Somebody’s hiding. I wonder who it could be.” Before singing the rest of the song, the child that is hiding sings, “Yoo-hoo … Yoo-hoo …” from behind a desk or chair. The rest of the class then chants, “It’s (insert child’s name)!” Younger students will be so excited when it is their turn to hide.
Learn more: Child of the Red Woods
30. Who Do We Appreciate?
Get your class all revved up while learning each other’s names. Get in cheerleader mode and teach your students to chant “2-4-6-8 who do we appreciate?” The class responds with someone’s name in their loudest and happiest voices. This goes on until everyone’s name has been chanted.
Learn more: Child of the Red Woods
What’s one of your favorite name games? Please share in the comments below.
Plus, check out 25 Elementary Icebreakers To Start the School Year Off Right!