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The First Day of Class

Key to the first day of class, similar to the course itself, is putting in the time and effort to plan for the teaching and learning experience you want for you and your students.  Several steps can be followed to make sure you have created a clear path to successful engagement for your students as well as for yourself.  These might be slightly different depending on the conditions under which you are approaching your course.   

  • First, begin to put names with faces. Saying hello to someone by name is surprising, yet effective. In a class of less than 50, spending the first few classes to memorize names and faces is well worth the investment.  
  • Second, make sure you arrive early (15 minutes before class), quickly set up any technology you need, and then start introducing yourself to individual and small groups of students 

As noted on the first page, students are both curious and anxious with the start of a new class. They seek their motivation from their instructor, especially in the beginning of the course. There are two important elements behind being the motivational force: 

  • Enthusiasm – expressed through non-verbal behaviors, expressiveness, excitement in one’s voice, and interest in interaction with one’s students. 
  • Passion – expressed through the sharing of one’s love for their topic. Start each day talking about why this topic is important to you as a chemist, a psychologist, a historian, a political scientist, etc. Passion is extremely contagious and your students will get the bug for the content.  

Do something the very first day to “hook” your class into the topic. Do it before you present the syllabus. This is part of being the MOTIVATIONAL FORCE in the classroom. Start the class with an experiential exercise that gets the students conversing with each other. Make it intriguing, for example, a small puzzle to solve that involves course content, or a fascinating demonstration with a follow-up discussion. Make it interactive (e.g., having students work in small groups of 3-4 and have a few report what they discussed. Leave them “wanting more.” 

Building off of the experiential exercise, start by taking students on a journey through your class. Where does the journey end (course objectives and outcomes) and how are we going to get there? Consider the flow of this journey description. What are the key elements of the journey? How does learning occur in this course?  

Thoroughly discuss the notion of shared responsibility with your students. What is expected of them (e.g., preparation, appropriate behaviors) and what do you expect of yourself (creating exercises that applies what they prepare and makes it relevant to them).  

Download this handout for additional information on handling the first day of class.