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References and Resources

What a Difference a Day Makes: The First Day of Class (more info) is an article from three faculty members at the College of William and Mary. They advocate engaging students in active learning right from the start, based on results of a survey of 86 faculty members.

First Day of Class is a chapter in Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis that provides a comprehensive discussion and many useful ideas and suggestions.

Great Beginnings (more info) from the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning that includes collection of ideas to do early on in your class on the following topics: first impressions, course logistics, building community, challenging students, encouraging active learning, remember the golden rules of teaching.

Getting Started (more info) by Richard Felder and Rebecca Brent suggest that after opening formalities, do something that helps you learn the students' names and something that motivates their interest in the course. Ideas for the latter (don't try to do all of these on the first day) include:

  • Show a graphic organizer (concept map, flow chart) for the course, perhaps linking the topics to topics from the prerequisite courses and/or to the instructional objectives.
  • Have students anonymously write and hand in a list of things they know about the course content and questions they have about it.
  • Share advice from previous students collected at the end of the last course offering.
  • Have students write goals for themselves.
  • Present some problems - preferably with real-world connections - that the students should be able to solve by the end of the course.
101 Things for the First Three Weeks from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln offers very brief suggestions of what you can do to
  • help students make the transition from high school or summer or holiday activities to learning in college
  • direct students' attention to the immediate situation for learning - the hour in the classroom
  • spark intellectual curiosity and challenge students
  • support beginners and novices in the process of learning in the discipline
  • encourage students' active involvement in learning
  • build a sense of community in the classroom
First Day of Class: What can/should we do? by L. Dee Fink, University of Oklahoma, suggests some possibilities: involve students quickly, identify the value and importance of the subject, set expectations, establish rapport, reveal something about yourself, establish your own credibility, establish the "climate" for the class, provide administrative information, and introduce the subject matter.

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