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The First Day of Class

Why should you do more than introduce the course syllabus on the first day?
What should you plan for the first day of class?
What are effective class activities for the first day of class?

First impressions are important. In the first 30 seconds of class, students form an opinion of you (Rosenthal & Ambady, 1993, p. 101).

Why should you do more than introduce the course syllabus on the first day?

In addition to making a strong first impression, the first day of class offers the opportunity to:

  • Build a learning-centered community by getting to know more about each other.
  • Dive into content and set the pace for the rest of the semester.
  • Delineate expectations for the course.
  • Motivate students to invest in the course by emphasizing learning over grades.

What should you plan for the first day of class?

As you plan for the first day of class, consider the following:

  • How are you going to generate interest for your subject area?
  • How are you going to build rapport with students?
  • How will you establish ground rules for the course in a helpful and approachable manner?
  • How are you going to communicate expectations for the course?
  • How will you learn about what students in your class already know, or think they know about the course subject?
  • When, before the first class, are you going to visit the room or hall to evaluate the space?

What are effective class activities for the first day of class?

  • Learn each other's names: use icebreakers, take a class photo, or make name placards.
  • Ask students to write their expectations of the course on index cards for your review.
  • Communicate learning outcomes explaining what students should know or be able to do as a result of completing the course.
  • Explain how you will create an inclusive environment for students.
  • Present content using a real-world scenario that will give students a context for the course.
  • Stimulate interest in your course—what exciting questions will you answer?
  • Give students a taste of what is expected of them. Will they be expected to actively engage in learning activities during lectures? Will they be required to participate in group work? If so, engage students in these types of activities on the first day.
  • Discuss the syllabus near the end of the class period. Use the first valuable moments of class time to make a memorable impression on the students.
  • Spend little time reviewing the syllabus on the first day. You will need to address it again in upcoming classes as students often switch courses in the first few weeks. When you are ready to introduce the syllabus in more depth, see How can you motivate students to refer to the syllabus? for ideas on how to do so.

Resources for The First Day of Class

CTI First Day of Class pdf (CU NetID required to access. Link redirects to login page.)

References

Svinicki, M. & McKeachie, W.J. (2011). Meeting a class for the first time. In M. Svincki & W.J. McKeachie’s McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (13th ed.) (pp. 21-28) Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company.

Rosenthal, R & Ambady, N.  (1993).  Half a minute: Predicting teaching evaluations from thin slices of behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64(3), 431-441.
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