Think about the first day of class as one of the most important days of the entire course. This is where you set the stage, set the ground rules, and create that first impression with your students that can last through the to the last day.
I like to start out with community-building activities. This is a great start for any class, but in my public speaking class it is critical to have support around the entire class because there are typically many heightened fears about speaking in public. I use a few strategies throughout the term to create this support system, such as teams (with a really fun team icebreaker) and lots of small group/pairs activities while learning concepts. But as far as the first few days of class, here are a few ideas of gleaned from others:
- Syllabus Group Activity – divide class into groups of 3-5. Give them a syllabus worksheet with a set of 5-7 questions that ask about the contents of the syllabus as they understand it. For example:
- Pre-first day: online course expectations quiz (randomized with unlimited attempts so students can take over and over again to get them all correct). Hey, what’s so bad about exposing them to the material over and over? I have done this every semester and it really prepares students to learn what the expectations are. Then I do not bore them on the first day of class by “reading” the syllabus to them.
- First Day Walk Around – post large post-its or use space on whiteboard/chalkboard with sentence like:
- I learn best in classes where the teacher _____________
- I am most likely to participate in classes when ___________
- Here’s something that makes it hard to learn in a class _____________
- Here’s something to make it easy to learn in a class _______________
- Students in courses can help me learn when they ________________
Have your class in groups, or individually, get up and walk around full circle, adding their thoughts to each post-it. Have fun and give each team different color pens!
- Student Information Sheets – find out more about each of your students individually and have them fill out a student information sheet that they share only with you. This is a great way to ask questions such as: “As the instructor, how can I best support your learning?” “What, if any, fears do you have about this class?” Also, you can ask questions related to the course topics that can better design effective teams (this may include familiarity/experience with specific methods such as, research, outlining, etc.).
Great Resources on First Day of Class: