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Tips for Teaching on the First Day of Class

Develop a plan for engaging your students in learning, starting on the first day of class. Taking the time to design a clear plan for the first day will help you calm your nerves and will give students a clear impression of the course content and objectives, what they can expect to do in the course, and why it will be interesting and challenging.

Set the Stage

  • ​Arrive early and make sure that the room is ready. Set up any necessary equipment.
  • Write (or display) the course title and your name and contact information, on the chalkboard (or screen).
  • Chat with students before you begin class. Interacting with students in this way will make them more likely to participate and ask questions during class.
  • When class starts, tell the students a little about who you are and why you are interested in the course and the discipline.
  • Begin learning your students’ names. The class roster on WebFAC provides photos of all your students; use this roster to help you put names to faces, even before the class begins. (WebFAC is accessible from the “My Blackboard” tab on Blackboard.)

Begin Teaching on the First Day

  • ​Start class on time.
  • Hit the ground running on the first day by including a brief lecture or a focused discussion.
  • Use at least one of the teaching methods you will use during the semester.
    • If you plan to use small-group discussions or other active-learning methods in the course, it is especially important that you do so on the first day. This strategy will help you establish high expectations for student participation and engagement.
  • Communicate your sense of why the topic should be studied and understood.​​
  • Relate the course topic to current issues or experiences.

Review Course Organization and Policies

  • ​Distribute an informative, detailed syllabus and describe the workload of the course, e.g., number of exams, number and length of papers, number of books to read, and amount of daily or weekly homework.
  • Explain policies regarding attendance, academic integrity, grades, and requests for extensions or rescheduling of quizzes and exams. If you are TA who is assisting a faculty member, reinforce course policies and explain how they pertain to the part of class (e.g., weekly discussion sections) that you facilitate.
  • Review your office hours and give students instructions on when and how to communicate with you.
  • Explain your expectations for class participation, and why participating is important.

Answer Questions

  • In addition to giving students an opportunity to ask questions, try to answer unspoken questions, such as “Should I take this course?” “What will be the most interesting part of this course?” and “What will be the most challenging part?"
  • Consider asking students to submit questions about the course—in class, via email, or in an online discussion board, such as on Blackboard. Plan to answer these questions during the next class session

© 2014, The Teaching Center, Washington University in St. Louis​​​