Center for Teaching and Learning
Teaching the First Day of Class
A successful first day can be a key component of a successful quarter. You should envision the first day as more than just a time to review your syllabus. It is an opportunity for you to establish expectations, set the tone, and to get to know your students. When the students come to the first class, they are eager to know what will be taught in the course, what the instructor will be like, what will be required of them, and how they will be evaluated. In addition to providing detailed logistical information, begin the quarter by getting students involved. On the first day consider ways to involve your students in a discussion of course content. Try modeling or practicing strategies and methods you plan to use throughout the quarter. By planning a focused and dynamic first day you will give students a better sense of the course overall.
Ideas for your First Day
- Introductions: Introduce yourself and ask students to introduce themselves. To mix things up a bit you could take some class time for students to interview and introduce each other, or try another icebreaker activity. You might also use the first day as an opportunity to start learning students names: For helpful strategies on learning students names click HERE.
- Collect information about your students: Have students write down their names, contact information, majors, and the last course taken in the subject area. This information will provide valuable background and help you calibrate your teaching and course content to your students’ levels and interests. On the logistical side of things, make sure to invite students who may need accommodations (students with disabilities or student athletes for example) to provide any documentation or to make necessary requests.
- Read through the syllabus: Review the syllabus as a group; highlight the course requirements and policies. Discuss the objectives of the course and your approach to the subject. Discuss the readings, assignments, and forms of evaluation.
- Establish a comfortable atmosphere and professional rapport: Establishing an atmosphere in which students will feel comfortable asking questions and contributing to discussion, in a respectful manor, will increase everyone’s potential for success. For more on inclusive teaching click HERE.
- Making the Most of the First Day of Class, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence, Carnegie Mellon
- The Most Important Day, by Delivee Wright. Teaching and Learning Center, University of Nebraska
- Felder, R. and Brent, R. (1995) “Getting Started,” Chemical Engineering Education, 29(3). 166-167.