First Day of Class

When I first started teaching a Palomar College I asked one of the senior professors in my departmentwhat he did the first day of class. He said “Oh, you just hand out the syllabus and tell them to go buy their books.” Many years later and now a senior professor myself, I recognize this as very poor advice.

So, with the first day of the new semester right around the corner, I would like to offer some different words of advice to consider. First as many have observed, we only have one chance to make a first impression. With that in mind consider the following points gleaned from surveys of successful instructors who were asked what they would advise instructors to do the first day of class.

  • visit the classroom a week before class to make sure it is set up the way you want and has the equipment (i.e. data projector and internet) you’ll need
  • arrive early the first day and write your name and course name on the board
  • begin by introducing yourself and telling the students a little bit about yourself
  • be well organized and prepared: explain the course organization, requirements, assignments, and policies – it is a mistake to simply direct students to “read the syllabus”
  • on the first day use some of the teaching methods you will use throughout the semester such as giving a short lecture, showing a video clip and asking for responses, arrange small group discussions if you do this during your classes, use the “clickers” to get students actively involved right from the beginning – give students a good idea of what your class will be like
  • make sure you use the full amount of class time as this communicates that class time is valuable and something important will be accomplished each class period

What about with large lecture classes? See the videos linked below to observe how one award-winning professor handles large classes (the link will open in a new window).

Welcoming Students on the First Day


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