The Perfect Game to Learn Your Students’ Names

pool noodles

I’ve never been one for icebreakers. They always seem a little bit awkward to me, and I know many of my students feel the same. At the same time, I’ve witnessed a classroom of students going an entire semester without learning each other’s names. It’s shocking! I decided there must be a middle ground.

The first step in getting to know your students and building community is learning each other’s names. If you’re looking for a game to help you do this, all you need is a pool noodle and a little energy!

The Pool Noodle Name Game

pool noodles

What’s the Purpose?

This is a great activity to do at the beginning of the year or the beginning of a new class rotation or semester. The Pool Noodle Game can be used as an icebreaker activity and a way to memorize your students’ names easily. By the end of one class period, you will know your students’ names!

How to Play

Similar to tag, the goal of this game is not to be “it.”

To start, have your students stand in a circle. Go around the circle and have each student say their name one time.

students in circle

Select a student to stand in the center of the circle with the pool noodle. This student is “it.”

To start the game, a student from the circle calls out someone else’s name. The student in the center must find that person and gently tap them with the pool noodle. But, there’s a catch.

To avoid being “it,” the person whose name was called can call out someone else’s name. If they do so before getting tapped, they can stay in the circle. Then, the student in the center must try to find the newest target before they call out someone else’s name.

Adding a Challenge

To make the game a bit more challenging, you can include a few more rules. For example, you might say that students can’t call the name of anyone standing directly next to them. Or, they can’t keep calling the same two names back and forth. In this case, anyone not following the rules must go to the center.

Once students get comfortable with the names of their classmates, have the students in the circle move to a new spot. This changes up the order and forces students to remember who’s who.

Finding an engaging icebreaker activity can be difficult. The Pool Noodle Game is a fun yet simple way to start building relationships with your students. Don’t be afraid to step into the game and play yourself; it will help in the first step of getting to know your students by learning their names!

What’s your favorite icebreaker activity or game to play in the art room?

What other activities do you do on the first day of class?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Abby Schukei

Abby Schukei, a middle school art educator and AOEU’s Social Media Manager, is a former AOEU Writer. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

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