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Teaching Tip: First Day of Class

August 15, 2013

The first day of class is critical,” writes Faculty Focus (Aug. 12, 2013). What happens sets the tone for the entire course. The impression you make will last the entire semester, and today’s students are not shy about sharing their opinions. That is why you must use the 1st day to inspire confidence in your abilities and create a classroom atmosphere where the rules are clear: expectations are high, and yet students feel welcome, comfortable, and engaged.

By starting the very first day of the term with clear routines and expectations, with easy procedures such as the “Today We Will” list, students learn that the class is well-organized and that they can achieve success through class attendance, preparation, and participation. You can maximize instructional time and minimize classroom management efforts.

The “Today We Will” list goes up on the board at the start of class and it stays there the entire time. The list lets students know what will be covered that day. They can glance at it to check progress or to see if they missed any big concepts. The list also keeps you on task. As you move around your classroom lecturing, the list is a visual reminder of what you need to accomplish in that period. It also reminds students that they are accountable for the day’s material whether they are present in class or not. For example, if  #1 on the list is “We will go over 3 questions that are on the midterm,” and a student missed the first 15 minutes of class, she will want to get that material from you or another student. So a thoughtful list will motivate students to attend class, arrive on time, and compensate for class time that they miss. If students have really grasped a concept more quickly than you expected, you can add items to the list.

However, the list is fairly standard on the first day of class. It contains the following 5 things: (1) Do what’s on the screen, (2) Introduce yourself, (3) Review syllabus completely, (4) Have lesson, (5) Conclude with preparation expectations for next class.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Ozgur Ozluk permalink
    August 21, 2013 2:37 pm

    I completely agree with this note. Except for unusual circumstance, I don’t let students to my class if they miss the first class. To the students, I call it “the day we go over the contract for the semester”.

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