Great Beginnings: Things to do early in your class

First Impressions

  • Arrive early and put information on the board
  • Start class on time
  • Hand out an informative and user-friendly syllabus (if it’s your own class)
  • Let your students see the enthusiasm you have for your subject

Building Community

  • Greet students at the door and chat with students as they arrive
  • Introduce yourself and your interest in the class
  • Tell about your current research interests and your own beginnings in the discipline
  • Take attendance to learn names
  • Use an icebreaker to help students learn each others’ names
  • Make collaborative assignments for several students to work on together

Course Logistics

  • Tell students what will be expected of them with regard to attendance, grading, participation, assignments, and late work policies
  • Tell students what they can expect of you with regard to office hours, reading drafts, calling on students, accessibility at home
  • Explain the difference between legitimate collaboration and academic dishonesty
  • Organize your class and provide structure by posting the day’s “menu” on the board or overhead

Challenging Students

  • Have students write out their expectations for the course and their own goals for learning
  • Hit the ground running on the first class with substantial content
  • Relate course material to students’ interests and experience
  • Give students two passages of material containing alternative views to compare and contrast
  • Have students apply subject matter to solve real problems
  • Ask students to fill in an index card telling you something about their backgrounds

Encouraging Active Learning

  • Have students write their questions on index cards to be collected and answered the next class
  • Encourage group work and active discussion to accomplish specific objectives
  • Put students into pairs or “learning cells” to quiz each other over material for the day
  • Move around your classroom
  • Give students a take-home problem relating to the day’s material

Remember the Golden Rules of Teaching:

  • Be prepared
  • Be honest
  • Be creative