Five strategies for a successful start for your students (Teaching Tip)

January brings with it the comfortable familiarity of a completed fall semester and the newness and opportunities of a spring semester waiting to begin. Before the first day of the semester, consider these strategies to promote student success.
  • Welcome students. Send a welcoming email or Canvas announcement to your class (see the communication strategies page). Let students know where and when the first class session occurs: in person or online, how to access the Canvas course page, include a copy of the syllabus, and share your student office hours. This welcome sets the stage for prepared students on the first day of class.
  • Do a readiness assessment. On the first day of class, include a short, no-stakes quiz with a mixture of prerequisite knowledge questions and topics that students will encounter in the course. This readiness assessment can provide you with diagnostic information about the new class. Further, providing the correct answer to the questions can serve as an early resource for content review. Get started by using the Quizzes and Exams strategies page.
  • Ask students for their goals. No matter the class size, ask students why they signed up for the class and how it will help them achieve their goals. Students can complete this information (including name and pronoun preferences) in word or sentence format using Qualtrics. Display the Qualtrics word cloud results in real-time or share them during the next class session.
  • Give a syllabus quiz. Instead of a detailed syllabus reading, give a short syllabus quiz in the first week of the term (see CELT’s Sample syllabus quiz questions page). This method is an easy first assignment win for students and can lessen potential anxiety about course expectations and grading.
  • Make Connections. Prepare a small follow-up assignment in which students actively engage and make a connection with the course material and their lives. Perhaps this is finding a news article or social media post related to your course content. Maybe it is asking students to identify something within their lives impacted by the course topic. At the next class session, create triads of students to share the information. This strategy is beneficial if you use permanent triads for discussion and project teams throughout the semester and further connections with content and between classmates. Find additional ideas for engagement on the Ideas to create a welcoming, engaging, and inclusive classroom page along with the Engaging Students Online page.
Continue to read the CELT Teaching Tip for the Start of the Semester Checklist, Instructional Tools & Updates, the CELT Teaching Spotlight, and CELT Upcoming Programs. The CELT staff eagerly awaits meeting and working with you in spring 2021!
With a joy for teaching,
Sara Marcketti, Director

Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching


Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: Five strategies for a successful start for your students (January 14, 2021 – Constant Contact) page.

Prefer a Print version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for January 14.