Create a name card

Leigh McDowell, Nara University High School


Quick guide

  • Key words:Names, name card, first lesson, classroom management
  • Learner English level:Beginners
  • Learner maturity:Teenagers, junior/senior high school
  • Preparation time:25 minutes
  • Activity time:25 minutes
  • Materials:Name-card template, blackboard


I use this activity with students in their very first lesson of their first year in a new high school, when they are all shy and nervous, many taking a lesson with a native English speaker for the first time. Focusing students’ attention on creating an object, in this case a name card, seems to help them relax. It has everyone starting quite literally on the same page and ensures that all meet with success from the very first step.


Step 1:Print out the name-card template in Appendix A and make enough copies for each student, plus spares for students who make a mistake and want to start again.

Step 2:Using the name-card template, pre-make an example name card to look like the one in Appendix B.


Step 1:In front of the class, hold up your pre-made name card and tell students they are all going to make one just like it.

Step 2:Hand out the copies of the template and demonstrate how to fold it in half.

Step 3:On the blackboard, draw an extra large version of the front of the template.

Step 4:In the center of the template drawn on the board, write a first name and tell students to write their own first names in English on theirs. Instead of your own name, it helps to use a typical Japanese first name as an example so that students are clear that their second name is actually their first in English. Encourage them to write in large, colorful letters. You could have some color pens or pencils in the classroom ready for students that might need them.

Step 5:Under the first name on the template on the board, write a typical Japanese family name and instruct students to write their own on theirs. Go about the room and offer help to any students having difficulties. At this point, it is worthwhile checking that students know to use capital letters to start names in English (it’s surprising how many don’t).

Step 6:On the left side of the name card, have students write their class and student numbers. Give an example on the template on the board.

Step 7:Underneath that, in the bottom left-hand corner, have students write their birthday month. Here is a good opportunity to review (or even start learning!) the months of the year. I find that students appreciate hearing me pronounce the months and write them on the board so that they can check their spelling. It is also a good opportunity to point out that English spelling can be complicated and even native speakers have trouble with it.

Step 8:In the top right-hand corner of the template on the board, write your favorite food and instruct students to do the same. Go around the room and help out with translation or spelling queries and take up any opportunities to chat about food—a perennial favorite topic in Japan.

Step 9:Finally, in the box provided in the top left-hand corner of the template, tell students to add one picture. I have a purikura (print-club photo) of my family as an example because I feel it is a good chance to share a little something personal, but I tell students that any kind of picture is okay, even a hand-drawn one. The point is to personalize it and add value, not make anyone feel embarrassed.


The framework of this activity is simple and visual enough for all students to follow, creating the impression that they can understand your English. At the same time, it offers opportunity for personalization and a little creativity. The outcome is a name card that stands up on the students’ desks, giving teachers a chance to use the names of potentially hundreds of students, even though they are only meeting for the first time. I find that this sets a personable atmosphere for the class from the very beginning and helps with classroom management down the line.