The first day of class is your opportunity to present your vision of the class to prospective students. It is helpful if you can introduce yourself as a scholar and educator and provide insight into how you will teach the class and what you will expect them to contribute to the learning process.
Consider that several of your students may be “shopping” for a schedule the first week of classes. They may be looking for a class that will fill a particular time slot, include a particular learning environment (i.e. lab-based or lecture style), or a class with a certain workload to balance the demands of their other courses and extra-curricular responsibilities. Thus, students will appreciate a clear roadmap of what you will require of them over the course of the semester. You may also want to model, as specifically as possible, the classroom environment you intend to foster during the class. For example, if they will spend a good deal of time doing group work over the course of the semester, you may want to break them into groups the first day.
The point of an introduction is to establish yourself as a unique individual sharing the classroom with other unique individuals. Other than providing your name and the name of the course you’re teaching, here is some information you may consider sharing:
This is your opportunity to focus on students as unique and diverse individuals. Consider how introductions can lead into a productive and welcoming classroom environment. Instead of just asking general questions concerning their name, major, and years at COD, ask them questions that are pertinent to the subject and the atmosphere you want to build through the semester. Here are some examples:
This may also be a good time to give your students an exercise that enables teachers to assess the state of their students’ previous or current learning. The Background Knowledge Probe is a short, simple questionnaire given to students at the start of a course, or before the introduction of a new unit, lesson or topic. It is designed to uncover students’ preconceptions about the area of study.
As your students are introducing themselves and you are talking to them, ask your students to comment on the acoustics and remain conscious of how well you can hear and see each of them. Consider, with their input or alone, how you would change and optimize the seating arrangement. At the end of the introductions, ask them to move to optimize communication and make note of unexpected needs for a microphone, lighting changes, seating arrangements or other environmental controls.
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Serey, T. “Meet Your Professor.” Teaching Professor, 1989, 3(l), 2.
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This guide is adapted from "First Day of Class," Vanderbilt Center for Teaching and is available under a CC BY-NC license.