Office of the Faculty Teaching Fellow

First Day of Class – Some Helpful Tips

One of the joys of academic life is the fresh start offered by semester, quarter or term organization.  Here are some ideas for fresh starts.

  • Use community-building activities that allow you to learn names and students to learn each other’s names.
  • Have students read (and in groups, derive questions/concerns from) selected parts of your syllabus; then answer the questions.  By using groups you preserve anonymity and by forcing students to process parts of the syllabus in class, you gain assurance it will be considered.  You may even want to consider collaboratively creating the course syllabus with your students.
  • Introduce rich content immediately (but provide means for students who enroll late—a near certainty—to catch up)
  • In the January-February 2009 issue of the Po`okela, Marc Gilbert shares some of the relationship-building strategies he uses to get to know his students, and invite student engagement, before classes begin.
  • Discuss evaluations at the start of the term.  If you plan to use teaching assessments throughout the course, let students know that you value their feedback and strive to improve your teaching.
  • Establish expectations for behavior and participation.  It is best not to assume that students know what it means to be “prepared” and “participate”.
  • The Center for Faculty Excellence at North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers a resource, Tips for New Faculty, that while catered to new faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill covers useful tips.
  • The University of Minnesota Center for Teaching and Learning Services offers an excellent resource for managing conflict by presenting ten film-clip scenes, with analysis, of common conflict situations ranging from grade disputes to helplessness.

The attachments below include two editions of faculty email focused on first days tone-setting and activities, and a document by Mano Singham (Case Western Reserve) describing how to build a syllabus collaboratively with a class.

1st_Day_Expert_Tips.doc, 1st_Day_planning_Template.doc, GOALS DAYONE Merlot.doc