Planning the First Day of Class
The first day of class is important because it provides a preview of the course. Present the classroom situation clearly so that students will know from the first day what you are like and what you expect.
Decide on Your Objectives for the First Day
- Decide on what you want to accomplish. It will impact your decisions about what and how to cover topics.
- You have only one chance to create a positive first impression. Do this through introducing yourself, clarifying class goals/expectations, and how you start connecting students through introductions.
- Visit the classroom before the first session. Sit in the last row. Can you see the screen, white board, etc.?
- Be ready to answer student questions. Students come on first day with at least 4 questions:
- Is this class going to meet my needs?
- Is the instructor competent?
- Will this instructor be fair?
- Will the instructor care about me?
- Ask yourself, can problems during the course be alleviated if you plan a more effective first day session?
- Clarify ground rules (expectations) for the course. Misconceptions can be reduced on this first day.
Break the Ice
- Be there early to talk to students. Greet each student upon his/her entrance. Stay late to talk to students. Be enthusiastic.
- Get to know your students’ names. Students’ official university photos are available through the roster tool in Oncourse. Look them over before the first day.
- Let them introduce themselves to the others.
- Talk about assumptions – commonly-held myths about the subject area or college classes in general.
- Break students into groups. Give them a task and begin collaboration immediately!
- For more ice breaker activities, see our companion tip sheet Tips for Using Ice Breakers.
Introduce the Subject Matter
- At least part of the first day should deal with content. At minimum, give a brief overview of the course. Review requirements for the course.
- Whet students’ appetites with a newspaper clipping or video segment.
- Provide a concept map of how the course fits together.
- Help students start making connections with their prior knowledge.
- Have materials available for the students to see: a copy of the texts, course packets, etc.
- Have students write down individual goals for the semester. Collect, hold, and hand back later in the semester.
End the Class Session
- Make an assignment.
- Provide a time for reflection. Have students respond to a question posed in a minute paper.
- Reassure the students. A certain amount of cognitive dissonance will occur as a result of this first class session.
Remember. . .
- First impressions (even those first 10 seconds!) are lasting so make the most of the first day.
- Success is dependent upon planning. Your efforts will pay off with a more satisfying first day for your students, which will set the tone for the entire semester.
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Authored by Peg Weissinger (August, 2001)
Revised by Jennifer Beasley (September, 2011), Terri Tarr (August 2015)