Getting-to-Know-You Writing Activity: Using Names

In many schools and educational programs around the world, the end of summer is considered to be the beginning of a new academic year.  For us, teachers, this period involves lots of preparation, including designing a course syllabus, developing lessons plans, and thinking about the ways we can engage and motivate our students from the very beginning of the semester. The first day of classes is particularly important, as it introduces students to the material yet to learn, introduces them to their teacher and the classmates, and sets the tone of the course.

Although the first couple of days may be considered introductory, we still should try to provide our students with the opportunity to learn English and use it in meaningful activities.  Today I ‘d like to share a “getting-to-know-you” activity that we can use on the first day of classes.


1. Give each student a piece of paper and ask them to write their names on the paper vertically.

For example:


2. Ask students to add a suitable adjective that begins with each letter of their name. For example, I could come up with the following adjectives:

E: enthusiastic
L: laid-back
E: easygoing
N: nice
A: attentive

3. Students will present their names with the adjectives and explain why they selected these particular adjectives and how these adjectives describe their personality.  Depending on the size of your class, you can either put students in small groups or have them present in front of the class.

4. After students are done with their presentations, you could also teach them more adjectives describing personality.  Here you can find a list of personality adjectives organized in alphabetical order; there are two lists here, one containing positive and one containing negative personality traits.

This activity gives students a chance to memorize their classmates’ names in a fun way and perhaps to learn new adjectives.

I also suggest that you present your name first—as an example and also as a chance to learn more about you as their teacher. What “getting-to-know-you” writing activities have you used with success in your classroom?

About Elena Shvidko

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. She received her doctorate in second language studies from Purdue University and her master’s degree in TESOL from Brigham Young University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESOL interest section newsletters, and TESOL's New Ways series. Her research interests include second language writing, multimodal interaction, interpersonal aspects of language teaching, and teacher professional development.
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4 Responses to Getting-to-Know-You Writing Activity: Using Names

  1. Lauren says:

    I loved that way of getting the students to know each other as well as you getting to know your students. I just started last week with my student teaching and the first day we had students i played games to get to know my students as well ad getting to know their names. I have over 40 students and it is very difficult to remember all of them. This activity is such a great idea I can not wait to use it in my classroom.

  2. Marita Omega-Nalam says:

    This is fun. It is definitely useful. My intermediate (low and high) enjoyed this activity. It was a good springboard for our lesson on adjectives and adjective clauses. Thanks for sharing!

  3. A very useful and fun tip. This helps students be creative.

  4. Angus Kondo says:

    This is an awesome activity. I can attest that college level language learners enjoyed doing this activity, and it later proved to be useful when they had to fill out job applications. Thank you for sharing, Ms. Shvidko.

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