The First Day of Class: A Model for the Semester

It’s almost here!  And as you know, the first day of class blends the excitement of a new term with some trepidation – what will the classes be like this year…, are the students willing to learn…, can we get started on the right foot?  Perhaps you can help encourage students to get off to a good start by your approach to the first day of class.

Many educators feel that in addition to the usual first day activities (previewing the course syllabus, goals, objectives, and outcomes; introducing yourself; and getting to know students) it is important to preview what you expect students to do for the rest of the semester in your class, in actions as well as words. If you expect students to engage in active learning throughout the semester, you should make sure you involve them in this way on the first day. If discussion is expected, you should plan a discussion activity on the first day. If small group work is included in your course design, you should plan a small group activity on the first day.  Marshall McLuhan said that “the medium is the message” and we communicate a great deal to students by our actions and the expectations we can create with the first day’s activity.  We know that students are listening very intently on that day.

There are many other suggestions instructors can consider to take to make the most of the first class session and set the tone for the semester. The following web link provides some useful information regarding possible objectives for the first day of class:

http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/teach/firstday.html