10 ideas for a great first day of class (Teaching Tip)

Every semester I get butterflies in my stomach before my first class (and I am the professor!) Students begin each semester with different motivations and expectations for their classes. Some are nervous, most are excited, and others are ready to finish this class until they can move on to whatever is next in their lives. Here are some ideas – from classroom management to setting course expectations, to having a bit of fun, that might help alleviate some anxiety for both you and your students.
1. Visit the classroom before the first day and try out the technology, microphone, lights, etc. Contact ITS Solution Center if you need assistance at 515-294-4000.
2. Arrive early and greet students as they arrive. Introduce yourself and post your name, how you would like to be addressed, course name, and the section of the class on the projector screen, so that when students walk in they know that they are in the correct place. Review CELT’s Ideas to Create a Welcoming, Engaging and Inclusive Classroom webpage.
3. Either at the beginning or at the end of the class ask the students to complete an interest inventory index card. Following the class, you can cut out the student pictures accessible in AccessPlus and tape or staple them to the cards to begin to learn the students’ names. Questions posed to students can include:
  • Name according to the office of the registrar, with preferred alternate names or gender pronouns. You can then update your attendance and other records with these preferences.
  • The reasons why they signed up for the course and what they are most looking forward to learning.
  • What are their goals after graduation and how will this course help them achieve their goals?
  • If applicable, the reason why they might need to arrive late or leave early to your course. This can help with seating logistics and minimize possible future disruptions.
  • Fun questions help to get to know students such as: If a song played when you entered the room, what would that song be? If you won one million dollars, what would you do first?
4. Share some information that will personalize you – your teaching experience, the reason you entered your discipline, an anecdote from your undergraduate learning days. If you have graduate teaching assistants, introduce them and let them tell something about themselves.
5. Provide a detailed syllabus including learning outcomes, expectations, procedures, course schedule, and other information students may need. Talking at length about the syllabus sends the message that students can ask you rather than look up course information. Instead, distribute the syllabus and give students five minutes to review it. Then put them into groups and give the groups five minutes to answer 5 questions about the syllabus. The first group to answer all the questions correctly wins whatever suits your style and conveys the message that the things students need to know about this course are in the syllabus and they should look there before asking you. The goal is to help students realize they are responsible learners. Download CELT’s Learner-Centered Mindful Syllabus Checklist (PDF).
6. Engage in an interactive activity that engages the students right away in course content. This will demonstrate the importance of students’ engaging in content with one another, a hallmark of successful learning experiences. Check out CELT’s 226 Active Learning Techniques (PDF).
7. Consider adding a surprising fact or a current event that demonstrates why the content in this course matters. Establishing relevance and promoting intrigue can help motivate student learning right from the start.
8. Set up clear communication strategies for the students. These could include when you will have office hours, the best way to contact you, e-mail parameters, phone policies, etc.
9. Let your students see the enthusiasm you have for your subject and your love of teaching. It’s much more effective to begin the course letting students know that this is a course you want to teach with content you love and that you are there to help them learn.
10. Finally, if you are utilizing a Canvas course, enroll your students, and be sure to hit the Publish button! Learn more from the Start of the Semester Checklist web guide.
CELT is looking forward to meeting and working with you spring semester 2019!
Sara Marcketti, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: 10 ideas for a great first day of class (January 10, 2019 – Constant Contact) website.

Prefer a Print version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for January 10, 2019 (PDF)