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13 Smart Ways to Eliminate No Name Papers

Sometimes it’s all about the little things. And every teachers know a little thing like no-name papers sure can be a pesky timewaster.

When this question came up in our Christian Teachers’ Lounge Facebook group, I knew these ideas needed to be shared.

How to get students to write their names on their papers

Some ideas may work better than others depending on your situation. So find an idea or two that resonate with you & go for it!

13 Ways to Get Students to Write Their Names on Their Papers

  1. Ask students to touch their name. About two minutes into an assignment, stop and ask students to touch where they wrote their name on their paper. – Jennifer F.

Alternate ideas:

*Have students put a star (or other symbol) by their name. Change the symbol each time so they have to stop & check for their name. – Nicole C.

*Ask students to raise their hand if their table mate has their name on their paper. – Sara B.

  1. Have students circle their name in green, yellow, or red. Andrea B. recommends having students circle their name in green if they understand the concept and are confident about it, yellow if the assignment was hard but they’re pretty sure they got it, and red if they need help or struggled. (I love this idea! It totally kills two birds with one stone because you not only ensure their name is on the paper but you can also quickly see who needs help.)
  2. Have students highlight their name before turning their paper in. Simple, effective, but I love the previous idea more. 🙂
  3. Deduct points. Simply deduct a point or two if there is no name on the paper. – Catelyn M.
  4. Give stickers. In primary grades, walk around the room and give each student a sticker when their name is on their paper. – Lisa M.
  5. Throw away no-name papers. Elizabeth M. says that she simply throws away any no-name papers. Students can find their paper in the recycle can or redo the assignment. (At first this sounded a bit harsh to me, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to expect older students to be responsible in this area. It’s a natural consequence.) 
    Halyna M. has a fun twist to this. When she finds a no-name paper she announces “I’ve found another paper for the recycle bin – one less for me to grade!” Typically the kid hurries to fish it out and correct the mistake.
  1. Record a zero in the gradebook and keep a file of no-name papers. If the last idea seemed too harsh, then try this: record a 0 in the gradebook then put the no-name paper in a file. Students who notice they’ve received a 0 can find their paper in the file & turn it in for credit (or partial credit). – Catelyn M.
  2. Post a sign where students turn in papers. Post an obvious sign that says “STOP! Did you write your name on your paper?” – Catelyn M.
  3. Post no-name papers on the wall. Students must walk over & claim their papers. – Heather W.
  4. Use a “name check” call-and-response. If you use whole brain teaching, your students will totally get this one. Say “name check” and have the students repeat it back to you out loud three times while they check for their name. – Hannah S.
  5. Ask a student to check for names. When passing in papers, have a student check papers for names before the stack goes on your desk. Charlotte H. takes this technique one step further by assigning team captains who collect papers, check for names, and turn in papers to her. She immediately checks for no-name papers & hands any back to the team captain to find who them belongs to.
  6. Walk around and check. Simply walk around the room while students are working on an assignment and check for missing names. (This might be especially worthwhile during tests or quizzes.)
  7. Emphasize name AND date. Elizabeth H. notes that since she spent time at the start of the year teaching students to write the name and date on their paper, she has fewer students forget to write their name.

So try these tomorrow & you’ll never have to deal with a no-name paper again (that’s a realistic promise, right? 😉

If you want more classroom management ideas, check out our FREE training: How to Reduce Disruptions without Yelling, Begging, or Bribing


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  • When I was in the classroom (3rd grade), I used a scaffolded plan. The first 9-Weeks, I hung them on the board for them to claim. The second 9-weeks, I hung them on the board, but they lost 5 points. The 3rd 9-weeks, they lost 10 points. Finally, the last 9-weeks, they got a zero. I made SURE, I informed my parents at the beginning of the year and reminded them at the beginning of each 9-weeks.
    Now that I teach Gifted Ed, and I don’t give grades, I’ll do a spot check every now and then and those with their name on their paper (First AND Last), get to clip up. Starting the second semester, those without their names on their papers have to clip down. Since I only have them for 3 hours once a week two clips up in a day gets them a treasure and 2 clips down in a day gets them a call to mom.
    May seem harsh but by 3rd – 5th grades putting their name on a paper should be the FIRST thing they do EVERY time they start an assignment. That’s one of the firs
    t things they’re taught in KINDERGARTEN!!

  • I learned a catchy tune, “Put your name on your paper, Put your name…Put your name on your paper, Put your name…..” And so on. Put your messages to any catchy tune and it will help the students remember.

    • THIS. I’m VERY strict in my 8th grade science classroom, but I’m never mean. I speak firmly, but kindly. 95% of my students have risen to meet my expectations, including several who regularly get written up in other classes. I believe that having integrity – being honest and then sticking to my word – helps students choose to act respectfully and responsibly in my classroom.

      • Very well said, Rachel. I was recently challenged by a colleague who could not believe that a student that a student of mine misbehaved for everyone else and was written up by everyone else, and never by me. Her comment was, “So [student] magically just starts being good when you appear.” My response was, “Yes, he does.” At the time, I was angry because I felt judged and not supported by someone who I felt should support me. But I got over it because this student and I had a great rapport. I can honestly say I encountered hardly any issues. I wish I could have made a positive influence to effect behavior in other classes for this student, but most teachers had given up by the time they asked for advice so it was an ugly circle of bad behavior. I am strict and kind. I treat students as a children, but with love and respect. Being honest with them is key. Trying to sugar coat things never works and they resent you. I give each student a chance to be heard and to express their feelings, while later guiding them on how to express those emotions more appropriately for a school setting. For the record, I teach 5th grade.

  • When a student forgets to put his or her name on a paper, I post it on the board, and the students receives a 0 in the grade book. The only way they can redeem their original score is by setting up an appointment with me to come in after school and write the correct heading on ten different pieces of notebook paper and ten different labels. Then, when we have an assignment, the idea is for them to use one of these papers or labels that already have their name and heading on it thus eliminating the possibility of having another “no-name” paper.

  • I have my high school students sometimes look at their elbow partners paper and give me a thumbs up if their partners name is on it or thumbs down if it is not.

  • Same kid forgetting same thing again and again, same name clipped down, hung up or given a zero over and over…sounds more like punishing him/her for DNA rather than carelessness.
    You really don’t know whose paper it is?
    Much prefer the circle it, star it or even touch it idea.

    • Wake up! I teach 250 pupils a day. School is the only time in their lives that they have the opportunity to redeem themselves! Learn by doing. You are not teaching them anything if you keep blaming their shortcomings on everything else.

      • Have th highlight their ne. Each class has a different color so they are easy to separate, especially if a TA corrects or they get mixed up in your book bag. Used this technique for the last four years and have only had one paper without aenin that time.

  • Here is another way I insure (hopefully) names are on their papers:
    When I am ready for them to pass in their paper I say, “Ok, ONLY IF your name is on your paper, pass it back (or forward or to the right..whatever). Don’t even worry about passing it in if there is no name because…you know where it will go.” They all say, “The trash!”
    Then for the most part they all make sure, before they pass it, that their name is on it.

  • While passing out papers sing the song, Put your name on your paper first thing, put your name on your paper first thing, if you don’t put your name, then they all look the same,put your name on your paper first thing

  • I’ve always had a basket labeled “no name” and I put them there. If someone has a zero, that’s the first place they look.

  • I have 2 rules: if I can’t read it I can’t grade it, if there’s no name I can’t record it. At some point students have to take pride in their work, write neatly. By the time you hit middle school you’ve been in school around 5 years, put your name on your paper, legibly.

    • Dear Ashley, some people have disablites in mainstream classes and can’t write very legibily. You should ask the child what the paper says, and grade it then

      • Seriously? Every child can learn to write his or her name. The rest of the paper might be unintelligible gibberish, but by 6th grade, you need to have your shi* together enough to write your name. If not, you need a functional life skills class, not a gen ed/inclusion class. Don’t handicap your child by excusing a) sloppiness, b) laziness, c) excuses. Every child should be able to take pride in his or her schoolwork, including writing their own name.

  • My students turn in their work to trays labeled by subject. Beside the trays, I have a container with highlighters and a small sign that says “Did you highlight your name?” I’ve used this method for two years (after struggling with this issue for 17 years!), and I rarely have a no name paper; though I do have to remind them to only swipe across their names once.

  • I often collect papers near the end of class and randomly choose a few out of the stack. If the assignment is legible and detailed, and has a name on it, those students are the first allowed to leave class that day. Works like a charm!

  • I have no name papers kids have to fill out if they forget their name. It says: I know my name__________ Write your name 20 times.
    I know my number________ Write your number 20 times.
    I will always write my name and number on my paper. Write you name and number 20 times.

    Students get one of these every time they forget their name. First quarter they get 1 name paper each time. Second quarter they get 2, Third quarter 3, and fourth quarter 4. I’ve been doing this for 10 years and it works great! By second quarter name papers are rarely filled out.

  • I say, “Whoever has their name on their paper give yourself a pat on the back”. Then I say, “If you didn’t have your name on your paper and you are writing it now, then you give yourself on the back.” I use this for lower-el. I think it works great and it is a positive way of getting the job done!

  • To make sure I have no papers without names, I have my students draw something next to their name. I try and be creative with what I choose. My students look forward to turning in their papers also!!

  • In my 7th grade classroom, I take 5 points off then hang the paper upside down on the board. It will stay there a week and if unclaimed then it will go in the trash.

  • When I collect the papers I sing a song, “If you want a grade you gotta put your name on it!” From the tune If you want it then you gotta put a ring on it. Simply, no name…no grade.

  • I’m appalled that so many “Christian” teachers are all about punishing children for mistakes instead of teaching them! Good grief.

  • This song goes to the tune of Are You Sleeping…And I keep singing it until I have seen EVERY paper properly named.
    First Name, Last Name
    First.name, last name
    At the top, at the top
    Do it right away-a, do it right away
    So Teacher Stops, so teacher stops!

  • We sing a song together.

    First thing I do is always the same
    When I get my paper, I write down my name
    Number and date (snap, snap)
    Number and date (snap, snap)

    I also do the highlighting before turning it into the trays.

  • I found a great time saving tip! Each child has a clothpin with their name on it. Each morning they have to attach the clip to their homework papers. I can quickly check the basket to see who has not used their clip. If they have forgotten their name on a sheet, the clip attached lets me know know the owner.

    For classroom work, I will also have everyone stand. As i call the each child’s name, they are to sit down. Those left standing have to come identify their sheet. After a few times, the students don’t like to be left standing.

  • When I pass out tests, I have the students write their name and the date on their papers before they can get up to get a screen. I haven’t had anyone forget to put their name on their test since I started doing this! 🙂

  • In the Primary grades, you can sing… “Write your name at the top, write your name at the top, write your name at the top, so we know it’s yoursssss”. 🙂

  • I found a great idea on pinterest. Have the kids highlight their names before turning it in. I used it this past school year with my second graders and it did help to eliminate most no name papers. I also had tabe captains who collect papers and they will not accept papers without names and dates. I love both of these management strategies.

  • Middle school: I have students write their full name -first, middle, and last 25 times per quarter. 1st quarter 25, 2nd 50, 3rd 75, 4th 100. I usually have under 5 the first quarter followed by maybe one each following quarter.

  • I’ve had success making the very first question or action in an assignment be to “Write your name.” After the directions (which are often not read — as procedure step one or question one.

  • I have done a few of these…highlight your name, posted a reminder sign by the hand in baskets, hung no name papers on the board for students to claim, and I’ve also taken recess time instead of points off the assignment – 1st marking period just a gentle reminder, 2nd marking period lose 5 minutes, 3rd lise 10 minutes, and 4th qtr lose all recess. For chronic offenders I make them practice writing their 1st and last name for the amount of time they owe.

  • I used to put the papers in a no-name (I called it the DEAD file) so they could see they did turn them in, but did not put their name on it. I had a parent who called, and bullied me into giving her kid credit because I still had the paper. Now, I have a “lost and found” and leave them there- but throw them out if not claimed within the quarter. Kids still don’t make the effort to check this file.

  • In fourth grade, our first 9 weeks is the get used to everything time. Starting with the second 9 weeks I take of 3 points for name, 3 for their class number, or 3 for the date. If they leave off the whole thing, it is 10 points. For everyday work I either have the students bring it to me to give an effort grade or my table captains take up the work and put it in the correct number pocket chart I have. If we are having an exam, they put it in their pocket. It doesn’t take very many points off before they remember to put what I want on the paper. I also get to tell them how sorry I am when I take the papers up and give the effort grade with 10 points off. That also seems to make a big impact when they see the points being taken off. By the end of the year, everyone is usually in the habit and that is the goal.

  • As a current substitute teacher who is working on my teaching degree, I love a lot of these tips and plan to implement number 2 because it not only helps with the names but it gives the students a chance to give me feedback on their understanding.

    I totally get the frustration and admin time sucked up by papers with no names (and as a sub, I really DON’T know who the 3 nameless papers in my hand belong to!). That said, I also wanted to address some of the comments, especially the ones with the theme of “by now they should know better…” You’d think so, right? Except it’s not always about knowing better. My son is finishing 5th grade and is very smart…but he also has executive function disorder. That part of the brain that allows most of us to keep track of multiple steps just doesn’t work right for him. So if you give him (or a child like him) a math worksheet and tell him, “Put your name on it, then answer questions 1 – 10. Color any boxes with an answer less than 10 yellow and any with an answer 10 or greater blue,” I guarantee you step #1 is gone from his mind, and it doesn’t matter that he’s supposed to automatically put his name on every paper as soon as he gets it. The teacher has effectively overwritten that instruction in his mind. So, as a mom, I’d ask that any teacher struggling with this issue in the classroom consider what would work best for each student as well as for the teacher, and make sure students aren’t being penalized or shamed for something that is beyond their control.

    • Thank you for your enlightening comment! It does help to explain why some kids seem to struggle so terribly with this issue. Makes it easier for those of us teachers who have special ed kids find a better way and less punitive. I am sure these children want to remember – but just struggle with it.

  • I have a Spotter badge on a lanyard that I quietly give to one of the children to wear while others are on task. He or she then goes round giving a counter to anyone who has put their name on the sheet, remembered to use full stops etc, whatever I ask them to look for. Counters are then swapped for a raffle ticket at a convenient time for me. I use raffle tickets as a reward system in my composite class of 4 to 9 year olds.

    Like the idea of circling their name with a colour as we use a traffic light system of self assessment.

  • Create an imaginary class member whose name is No Name. He gets all the credit for No Name papers. If your class can keep No Name from getting an A, (for the week, the month, the tern, etc.) they earn a special reward.

  • I had a “No Name Paper Box” where I put graded papers with no name on it. If someone claimed they turned in an assignment that was labeled as missing, I would have them look in the box. The first student to claim a paper could name it and turn it in. I would tell students if they took the time to do the work they should, at least get credit for it. Occasionally a student would claim someone elses work, but not very often.

  • In Kindergarten we have a little saying that says: The first thing we do is always the same, we pick up our pencils and we write our name!

    Even if students do not how to write their names we get to know their writings and the squiggly shape letters and we give them credit for writing it. It gets better throughout the school year as we see the progression of their writing skills!

  • I put a 0 in the grade book and tape the graded no name papers on the board. I stamp “at home detention” at the top of no name papers. After passing out graded papers students not receiving their paper can retrieve and resubmit their graded paper and the at home detention of writing their name 100x. Then i give them the grade and file their detention. I teach 135 7th graders.

  • I have a poster for a visual reminder of the call & response I use each time I give an assignment. I say “The first thing I do is always the same” and students reply “I pick up my pencil and write my number, date & name.” I assign students a number for the entire year. It makes ordering the papers super fast, and easier for student helpers to order them for me. I can see right away who hasn’t turned in the assignment. I also use their numbers to help review math vocab such as prime numbers, multiples & factors. For example, I might have them line up if their number is a multiple of 3, a prime number, a factor of 24, etc.

  • When students forget to put their name on their paper, I simply circle it in red, placed the paper on the bulletin board, and give them a zero in the gradebook. The paper hangs there for as long as it needs to, until the end of the six weeks. If they see a zero they know their first choice is to check the board, if their paper is not there, they need to REDO. I give them grace, with no points off during the first semester. However, when the second semester comes, the paper also loses five points off. ( I have use this procedure and fourth, fifth, and sixth grade.)

  • We played the lotto! Absolutely no name: pick a lotto ball between 1 and 10 with a multiplier of 10. Only first name had a multiplier of 5. They then had to write: My name is ____ and I will write it on all of my papers. It usually only took one drawing for them to realize it wasn’t worth the “gamble”.

  • I teach 7th grade. I have 146 students divided among 5 classes. I tell them EVERY DAY to put their name on their paper. First grading period, I would allow students to identify their no name paper and get credit. At this point, (end of 2nd grading period) I throw them away and the student takes the zero. These are 12, 13 and in some cases 14-year-olds. Please.

  • I dismiss students by checking their work for a name. I have a drawer for each class where students turn in their work. When it is about time to dismiss, I pull the turned in work out and inspect the assignment and call out names of dismissed students…no name, no dismissal….come claim your paper (if there’s no name on it) or bring me your paper, if it isn’t done, finish it at recess detention.

  • I teach Kindergarten and after Christmas vacation my students have to redo a paper if they do not put their name on their paper. I send a note home to parents so they understand why their child may have to redo a paper. It usually only takes a couple of times and the students remember to write their name.

  • I use a stopwatch to time my 4th grade students passing in their papers. . .When I say, “Pass them!”, they first gather them at the table group and pass to the next table group, etc. Finally, the person closest to the turn-in basket puts the neatly stacked papers in the correct basket and sits down. IF every paper has a name and date on it, then I deduct 10 seconds from their time. We keep track of our lowest times for the week, the month, and the year. It is a great motivation to try to get into the single digits or even negative time. . .like it never even happened!

  • Oh for god sake- I just ask, “whose paper is this without a name?” and someone inevitably claims it. There is no need to humiliate people for making a mistake.

  • I collect my students’ work in alphabetical order. It becomes a game when you time them to see how quickly they can do it and try to beat their best time. It also reinforces their place in the roll for evacuation purposes. Makes marking easier too. Have done this with kids from 6-12 years with no problem at all! You can even mix it up with alphabetical order and reverse alphabetical order.

  • Iteach first grade and started this technique when I taught 2nd. I have a folder and stapled to the outside of it is a class list. Once the student turns their in they highlight their name. If a paper doesn’t have a name I can then see who it turned a paper in and who doesn’t have a grade in the gradebook.

  • I give students a minute to put their name on their paper and then say “Put your finger on your name, last initial, date and number.” I rarely have a paper without a name. When I am going to have a sub., we put our names on the papers the day before.

  • I have a “hoozit” (who does it belong to, drawn with owl eyes) place on my board where I pin no-name papers. I like the circle your name with green, yellow, or red. Going to use this when school starts back.

  • Taking off points or throwing away no name papers is completely unfair to ADD children and skews grades. Grades should reflect mastery of the standards, not whether or not a child remembers to put a name on a paper. With so many other options for reminding students, why would you take away the credit for the hard work the child has done? My son has ADD and has a teacher that highlights names and teachers that throw away no name work. In one class he had a 49% average because of no name work. He is a gifted child and in all advanced classes, but was failing miserably because he forgets his name…and guess what…getting zeroes did NOT help him remember his name next time. He isn’t skipping his name out of laziness. He is forgetting it because of a diagnosed condition where his brain has difficulty focusing on one thing at a time!! Would we take points away from a child with no arms for not raising his hand to speak? NO! We would find a way to accommodate his needs. We need to stop being so punative and set up our classrooms to mirror caring communities where we look out for each other. It isn’t difficult to adopt one of the many procedures in this article that support, instead of punish.

  • For tests, where having names on things matters most, I print out a sheet of return address labels with every student’s name … using a template, this label sheet requires about 15 minutes to set up ONCE in August. Every time I give a test, I print up a label sheet and tape it to the board in the front of the room. While we’re preparing for the test, students come to the board, pull their own name from the sticker sheet, and put it on their test. This bit of movement is good for high school students. I have a printed, legible name on every test. After the test, I am left with a sticker sheet bearing the names of the students who didn’t take the test (which matters, since I teach about 150 students at any given time).

  • I have tried many of these, but there are a few new ones I’ll try. When I am able to identify a no-name paper students have to write their name a certain number of times in multiples of 10. I keep a record of this. It eliminates the problem eventually,

  • Another idea: Have two trays for students to return their papers. One tray is labeled “Name” and the other tray is labeled “No Name.” They’ll think twice before handing in their paper!

  • I say to my students:
    The first thing we do is always the same,
    We pick up our pencil and write our name.

    Also, I have a paper passer who collects the papers and checks to make sure their names are on them. If their names is not there, she asks kindly for their name.

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