New Beginnings: First Day of Class Activities

The first day of class is one of the most critical days in the semester, as it sets the tone and expectations for the course. Some professors will jam the first day of class full of information, leaving students feeling overwhelmed and fearful of the course, while other professors briefly review the syllabus and then dismiss their students half an hour early. However, neither of these approaches is truly effective, so follow these tips to have a successful first day of class.

First, professors should introduce themselves to the class on the first day. Some topics to cover might include your educational background, what you're looking forward to about this class, and interesting facts about you. Sharing this information can help students connect to you and feel more comfortable in the classroom.

In addition, the first day of class should include some form of syllabus review, whether this be a broad overview of what will be studied in the course or a more specific explanation of the major assessments and topics that will be covered this semester. Students may become bored if the syllabus is read to them on the first day, so strike a good balance between detail and pithiness as you review the syllabus.

Students also enjoy having an icebreaker or a name game of some sort on the first day, especially if the class is small. It can help break from the monotony of the "syllabus week" to get students out of their chairs and interacting with each other. Some examples of fun icebreakers include name games or sharing fun facts about yourself - see this list here for some ideas!

Some professors also do an exercise on the first day that helps establish a good classroom culture, such as asking students to describe good classes they have had and bad classes they have had and analyzing what made those classes good or bad. Another example of this type of activity could be asking students to develop 3 expectations they have from this class and their classmates, afterwards developing a class-wide list of norms.

Norm generation exercises are just one example of a type of unique activity that can be done on the first day, and the sky's the limit for making the first day interactive, fun, and exciting. No matter what, these tips should give you a solid base to work from as you develop a first day agenda that works for you and your class.