The first day of class sets the tone not just for yourself as an instructor, but also for your course. By planning ahead, you can alleviate some of the anxiety that both you and your students may be feeling and can begin engaging students right away.
This guide is primarily for face-to-face courses, but some information is included for online courses. If you are teaching for UA Online, your course has been designed to help you succeed on the first day of class and throughout the semester.
Before the Course Begins
- Visit your classroom in advance to become familiar with the layout, lighting and technology.
- If you are teaching an online or hybrid course, log in to Blackboard before the first day of class to make sure your course is ready to go.
- Print handouts and the syllabus for your face-to-face class.
- Consider sending your students an email to briefly introduce yourself, let them know what to expect on the first day and provide information about required materials. For an online course, include information about logging in to Blackboard and locating your course.
- Create an outline for how you will use the first day of class. You will use this to help you structure your class time, so don’t share it with students.
- Develop a system for taking attendance.
- Design a filing system (electronic and/or paper) for your course materials to help you stay organized.
The First Day
Before class begins
- Arrive early on the first day and plan to stay a few minutes late if you don’t have another class immediately after.
- Project a PowerPoint or write basic course information on the board, such as your name and the course number and name.
- Greet students as they arrive.
- Share why you chose your discipline and why you’re teaching this course.
- Introduce your teaching assistants if you have any.
Ask students to introduce themselves
- You might ask students to introduce themselves and why they are taking your course.
- Learn your students’ names and how to pronounce them.
- Consider using a first day survey to collect information about their pronouns, prior knowledge, personal goals and proficiency with technology.
Introduce the course
- Why is the course relevant?
- What will students get out of this course?
- How will the skills they gain transfer to other contexts?
Review the syllabus
- Put an emphasis on basic information about the course, such as required materials, grading and attendance policies and course organization.
- Consider using a syllabus quiz to get your students better acquainted with your expectations and requirements.
Help students learn about each other
- Icebreakers are activities that help your students get to know each other and can also be used to get students acquainted with your course. They can be useful throughout the semester to introduce lessons or to review content from a previous lesson.
- The Blackboard Discussions tool or Flip can be used in an online class for your icebreaker.
Actively engage students in learning
- Try to go beyond the administrative tasks of the first day and cover some substantive content to get students engaged with the material.
- Use a few minutes of your first class meeting to model what students can expect in future sessions.
- Use the Teaching and Presenting Tool Comparison Chart from UA’s Center for Instructional Technology to help you select technology tools that best fit your teaching modality and specific teaching needs.
- Read more about considerations for using icebreakers and how to design them, from the Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation.
- Try one of these classroom icebreakers from Top Hat or from IUPUI’s Center for Teaching and Learning.
- Read these tips for learning students’ names, from Carnegie Mellon University’s Eberly Center.
- Learn more about Flip, a video discussion tool that can be embedded in your Blackboard course, or sign up for a workshop.