Day One (start right)
The first day of the semester is important; it sets the stage and tone for the remainder of your time together. You should start as you mean to go on!
Before class starts, send the syllabus, links to books and resources etc., and instructions to whatever technology you want them to use. Tell the students what they need to know to be successful in the class: do they need stable internet access, how to use Zoom and the LMS, to check their email regularly, and how to contact you. Let them know that you value their opinion and expect their active participation in the class. My first email to them is purposefully informational, excited and fun.
Before class starts, even while creating the syllabus, take some time to really think about why students should take this class? What do you want them to know 5/10/20 years down the road? Keep this in the forefront of your mind as you move through the semester.
On the first day of class, arrive early to class, greet them as they arrive... and I play music and/or YouTube videos. Once you shut of the music/videos class starts! (this becomes normative behavior).
Things to include on Day One (and some Operational Examples)
1. Pitch a question or problem to ‘hook them’ into the class; best practice suggests having this at the start of the syllabus and it is a great opener for the class. e.g.
In my theory class I show images of ‘The Wall’ between USA & Mexico – how could you study it?
Introduce an ethically divisive problem (e.g. self-driving cars and the trolley problem)
As an anthropologist, a good questions to ask it "How do you know the person next to you on the bus isn’t an alien? (Lang. 2019)
How would you design a cost effective shipping container to send care packages to military (JD Kim, Mathematics Professor, 2019)
2. Instructor introduction: Talk about why you love this class and exciting to teach it, explain your teaching philosophy, give a little bit about yourself, but don't make it a 'me-fest'.
3. Student Name Tents: Make and use ‘Name Tents’ supported by the Sarah Brownell article, keynote TTLTC (2019) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28188281 This can be as elaborate (see https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/First-Day-Name-Tent-One-Pagers-3877219) or as simple as you like. I just ask for preferred names and pronouns getting the students to fill in both the back and the front (so people behind them can also see their name). Use these name tents in every class.4. Introduce classroom management norms and expectations e.g. Music before class starts, practice your way to regain attention during group activities --- I use "Hands up" to regain attention, do a Think Pair Share activity... expect the students to actively engage on Day One!
5. Have students self-disclose their values or strengths. This is called 'Value Affirmation' (see Cohen, G.L., & Sherman, D.K. . https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24405362 ) and it's the antithesis of ‘Stereotype Threat’ (Claude M Steele, Whistling Vivaldi, (2011)) I have provided a link to a simple value affirmation activity (PDF file listed below). You could have students write these values on their name cards, discuss as a group, or have them poll key words up in large classes and create a word cloud. This simple small intervention can have lasting and positive impacts on the students.
6. As a class generate or formulate class rules; this creates a sense of community and ownership over their learning and the classroom. For example, suggest a group activity to create a list or poll the entire class for the rules they would like to see. Over the years I have never had the student varying very much from my own instructor’s list. It hardly surprising that as humans we all want basically the same things.
7. Technology use in the classroom. Do you have a policy on this? Can they use it? Here is my policy (textbox left)
I also do a Cell phone pledge in my class and have a statement in the syllabus on technology's use and abuse. State this upfront and reinforce it throughout the semester.
8. Syllabus review. I used to do a Syllabus Treasure hunt on the first day of class, but I still had students who didn't read the syllabus and later in the semester asked redundant questions. Now I do a STUMP the CHUMP activity. Divide the class into groups of 5 or 6 students. Each group creates a list of eight (8) question about the syllabus. Those question sheets are used as a carousel activity where another group has to answer the questions. I only answer the questions that can not be answered. I have no syllabus related questions anymore!
9. Finish off day one with a "Getting to know you" activity: This helps to build community and sets the stage for an active and engages semester. My personal favorite is a Human Scavenger Hunt (file below). Questions can be tailored to your discipline or class content.