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 visit the University of Nebraska’s page on learning students’ names.
  • 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 manner, will increase everyone’s potential for success. For more visit our inclusive teaching pages.

Additional resources

External links


  • Felder, R. and Brent, R. (1995) “Getting Started,” Chemical Engineering Education, 29(3). 166-167.