No matter how many years we may teach, the chaos of the first day of classes can make us feel like newbies again. And we are all too aware, whether Oscar Wilde said it or not, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” With this in mind, WCTL offers a few thoughts for navigating the first day of classes:
Capture their Imaginations: What questions and puzzles dominate your class? Why did you gravitate to this topic? At the end of the day (or the semester), on what adventures of the mind will your course take your students? Raise questions to get the mental gears churning. Pose a mini case-study from the course to capture their imaginations and get them wondering. Challenge your students to ask questions from day one.
Get to know your group right from the start: If you are tech savvy, a phone app such as Poll Everywhere, Kahoot!, or Quizlet can reveal their starting points and lines of diverging opinion. Or use an anonymous paper survey, reshuffled among the students for the purposes of discussion (without embarrassment). By getting to know what your students think, you can open the door to a more meaningful conversation that will last the entire semester.
Tour the Terrain: Using the latest UTC Syllabus Template and your Canvas course, point out the vistas and worthwhile climbs that make your class rewarding. All too often, students can get lost in the details right at the start. Think of the first day as your chance to invite them on a journey into a new world of understanding.
These are the things any of us try to do at the start of a semester. A little reminder, though, can help us to focus on what matters. Isn’t the classroom situation that odd space where chaos and uncertainties converge, but over time confidence and insight emerge? Let the games begin by beginning well!
Resources on Approaching Day 1:
- James Lang in the Chronicle of Higher Education: https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/advice-firstday
- Anna Koester Marshall on how things are done at Stanford University: https://teachingcommons.stanford.edu/teaching-talk/great-start-stanford-teachers-share-tips-successful-first-day-class
- Marguerite Mayhall at Inside Higher Ed: https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2018/08/14/guidance-how-teach-first-day-class-opinion
- Parker Palmer article on Identity and Integrity in teaching: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00091389709602343
If you would like to discuss your class with an instructional developer, please contact the Walker Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-4188.