Ok, most of your semesters and winding down or over. But, for those of us teaching this summer, we’ll soon be turning our attention to planning the upcoming course.
Over the past few days, I’ve found myself thinking particularly about the first day of class. Sure, it’s often a day that consists of the syllabus being passed out and students hoping to get out early. But, in reality, the first day sets the tone for the rest of the course. Because of this, I try to spend some time thinking about the goals for the first day.
Generally, I settle on the following three key goals:
#1: Communicate the course elements and expectations clearly.
#2: Immediately set the tone for the classroom as an open, safe atmosphere for learning.
#3: Create rapport between the instructor and students, and begin to create rapport among students as well.
To achieve these goals, I rely upon different activities. Here are some ideas below:
Communicating Course Elements
Going over the syllabus is often a little boring. But, it’s important to let the students know what they can expect throughout the course and what is expected of them. I also like having them write down what they except and hope to learn from the course before we go over the syllabus. Then, they can keep that in mind while we talk about the course, and, if you have them turn in their expectations, you can get a sense for what they are hoping to learn. Of course you can’t incorporate all suggestions, but it’s good to know where students are coming from.
I’ve also heard about syllabus speed dating. I haven’t tried it and would love to hear from someone who has, but the basic idea is that you set up in the classroom for “speed dating” and then ask students to discuss a question about the syllabus as well as a question that enables them to get to know each other. Then, switch partners and ask two new questions.
Setting a Tone and Creating Rapport
These goals take more than one class period to achieve. But, icebreakers and activities geared to get students talking often help create a positive classroom environment from day 1. We’d love to hear your first-day activities so we can create a log of them. Here you’ll find an older TSP post with a link to classroom bingo, which allows students to get to know one other. A few other popular ones we’ve seen or done ourselves include:
Interviews: Have the students pair up and interview each other. Then, give them a chance to introduce their interview partner to the rest of the class.
Two Truths and a Lie: Each person should share three things—two of them are true, and one is a lie—and the class guesses which one is a lie.
Introductions with a Question: Have each student answer a question when they introduce themselves. I have asked students to talk about the coolest place they have been (global studies courses), but any broad question would work here.
Student survey: Give students a short survey, which includes questions about their preferred name, why they are taking the course, their career goals, and any other things they think you should know. I prefer giving them this survey and going over it alone, but I’ve seen others add a goofy question to the survey and go over it in class (after giving students a few minutes to fill it out) as a way to take attendance and do introductions.
Ok, that’s just a few. We’d love to hear your thoughts on activities as well.