What’s In a Name?

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 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 every one 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 a young man who stepped in front 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 line 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.

Well today was Name Game day, and once again the students came through with some clever props. One woman gave a brief demo of Irish step dancing, another one led the class in a rap song she made up about her name, one guy brought in a pair of water wings (that he actually went to Target to buy just for the Name Game), and another guy played a song on his smartphone and started dancing around the room, lip synching to the Mighty Quinn. There were also several references to musical instruments, sports, a couple of YouTube videos, and lots of candy.

I’m always impressed with how comfortable my 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’ll keep going back over the notes I took as each student presented so that I know their names as quickly as I can.

And to answer Shakespeare  “What’s in a name?”

Everything a person stands for, condensed into one word.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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