Building Community While Taking Attendance

Is there anything more awkward for the first day of school than calling the role? Standing with a clipboard trying to put together letters into a way that doesn't butcher too badly the name their parents had in mind, all while the other students listen, laugh. Not only is this embarrassing for me, but it robs my students of valuable class time. So I have created a system that works better for me and helps build community in my classroom.

I tell students from the first day of school that teamwork is essential in my class. My desks are arranged in groups of three and these people are your first resource for anything from pencils to help with the assignment. So I have them turn to their neighbors and introduce themselves. At minimum, you need to know the names of the two people you are sitting with, but I tell them to learn something else about them too.

Then during the work period, I circulate with my clipboard. I pick someone at random in the group and ask, "What are your group members' names?" And the student tells me their names. Then I ask another student the same question, then the last student. At that point, I have heard the students say each name twice, which is plenty for me to mark down the attendance. The kids are also more likely to correct each other (even though I beg them to correct me if I pronounce their name wrong, they are usually hesitant to). The best part is that it builds the classroom culture of relying on each other from the beginning. I have already found that students are way more likely to strike up a conversation about a tricky word problem or ask for help finding a mistake if they know the person's name. It makes me sad when, in December, I ask someone to pass out papers and they tell me they don't know anyone's name. I am going to make a point to rotate the groups too and always emphasize that you need to know the names of your group member ... and rely on them for help. Teamwork!

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