Published on October 3, 2008
The First Day of Classes C. Shaun Longstreet Office of Educational Enhancement
Why is the first class meeting so important?
It is all about first impressions • The first 45 minutes of meeting your students establishes how they will likely perceive the course and you, the instructor, for the lion’s share of the semester. It is best to put in a good effort for that first class session. • It is also the first opportunity to develop ‘buy-in’, to raise enthusiasm for the course and motivate students for the rest of the semester.
How do we an effective first impression? • Arrive early, stay after class. • Have a clear, comprehensive syllabus to hand out. Review it during class. • Create an open, respectful environment. • Send a clear signal about roles in the classroom. • Dress appropriately - a little more formal, especially if you are younger and/or diminutive. • Hold class for the entire session - send a message that every class session is supposed to be
First day activities •Review the syllabus and course requirements. •Icebreaker and introductions. •Explanation of the course, the textbooks. •Describe your research and your passion for the subject matter. •Pre-knowledge survey.
Why review the syllabus? • Sets a professional tone for the course, creates ground rules that will save everyone from headaches later in the quarter/semester. • Allows opportunities for clarification if there are any ambiguities. • If it is not reviewed in class, chances are it will not be read later.
An effective syllabus will communicate:
The icebreaker activity • What is an icebreaker? • A quick way to have people become more comfortable and become acquainted with one another in class. • A brief social interaction between instructor and students and between students.
Example of an icebreaker # 1 • Have students complete a form with spaces for “something you already know about the subject,” “something you want to learn,” and “something that could happen in this class that would make it possible to learn what you need to learn.” Have each student introduce her/himself and share something from the form. Collect their forms to understand, and when possible, address their needs. • This activity also acts as a way to gauge student attitudes to the subject material.
An example of an icebreaker # 2 • Unique Characteristics - Even if the participants already know each other, the clinical trainer must get to know them. Instead of asking participants to say their names, the trainer can divide the group into pairs and give participants a few minutes to interview each other. Then, each participant should introduce their partners by name and to share at least two unique characteristics about them.
Why would I want to use an icebreaker? • Makes the classroom space less alien, more familiar. For both the students and the instructor. • Builds an environment that is interactive from day one. Socializes the students into talking and engaging each other. The classroom is a place where noise happens. • Students who know each other are more likely to exchange ideas inside and outside of the classroom. Remember, the active classroom is where and when learning best occurs. • It also allows you to get to know your students.
One thing to keep in mind... Make sure that your icebreaker fits within the tone that works best for you. Avoid activities that require significant physical activities or anything that might make anyone uncomfortable.
Explain the texts and give an overview of the course • This is an opportunity to give the students some rationale about why you chose the texts and why they need to read the texts. • How do the readings accentuate what goes on in the classroom? • If you cannot address the above questions, chances are your students will not do the readings or will read so inconsistently, that the level of frustration will be high.
Share your passion for the field you in which you work and your research interests. Enthusiasm is contagious!!!
Sharing your passion for your work with students • Develops enthusiasm for the course and course content when students are able to see what is exciting about our work. • Provides a greater sense of context for students, especially those unfamiliar with the field. Context will help communicate where the course fits within a larger discipline of studies. • Can potentially demonstrate concrete results/applications directly tied to the course content, something that is not always apparent even to more seasoned students in the major • Is an easy and effective way to ‘humanize’ you as the instructor
A survey knowledge on the first day…. • Can be informal raising of hands or a written in-class survey • An excellent way to get a sense of where your students are, regarding • pre-knowledge (what do they already know), • attitudes (what do they think they know), • expectations (of you, of the course, of each other) • concerns (problems they see) • hopes (what they hope to learn, what they want to achieve)
Survey knowledges are helpful because they: • give you a head’s up as to what you can expect of the students, where you can skip, and where you might have to spend more time. • communicate your interest in the students as learners. • begin to model the types of thinking you would like to cultivate in the classroom. • socializes the students into the discipline by posing typical patterns of inquiry at the beginning of the course.
By the end of an effective first class meeting, students should: • have a good idea of how the course will develop over the quarter/semester. • have a fairly clear understanding about expectations, classroom protocol and responsibilities. • have a sense of some familiarity with at least a few people in the classroom and will have begun to develop a sense of community amongst themselves. • retain the idea that class-time is valuable, pertinent to their personal development and (hopefully) fun. • be aware that you care about their learning. Developed from W. McKeachie, Teaching Tips (San Francisco: Houghton Mifflin, 2000))
Questions? Please e-mail me: shaun.longstreet @utdallas.edu
Thank You! Have fun in class!
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