The First Day of Class
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.
Why is the first day important?
It's the first day of class, and the room is buzzing with excitement and expectation, novelty and nerves, curiosity and uncertainty. In spite of how distracted they may seem, students are paying attention. They want to find out as much as possible about the course and they are curious about the instructor - will you be fair, interesting, easy to learn from?
The first day of a geoscience course or lab sets the tone for the entire term. This is your opportunity to stimulate excitement about the course, give students a sense of classroom dynamics, and establish course expectations.
What can you do the first day?
- Engage students with the course content in a substantive activity that stimulates their interest in the course and demonstrates your expectations for their class work. Involve the students in making observations, asking questions, testing hypotheses, solving problems - in short: doing science, even on the first day.
- Motivate your students to want to learn more. Make explicit connections between course content and students' lives, present information about careers in geoscience, preview "coming attractions," or stimulate their interest with a challenging task.
- Establish a positive classroom climate. Easing students' anxiety facilitates their learning, and it's never too soon to begin. "Icebreaker" activities can be very effective in fostering rapport and a comfortable learning environment.
- Survey your students. Finding out what your students want to learn in the course, surveying them about their current attitudes/beliefs toward geoscience, assessing their current knowledge (and misconceptions) about the subject matter, or having them complete a learning styles inventory can provide you with valuable information for your teaching.
Search for Examples
Search the collection of examples for first day of class activities that engage students with course content. You can narrow your search by course topic or level, as well.
References and Resources
References and Resources is an annotated bibliography of additional resources.
First Day of Class is a chapter in Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis that was used extensively in making the First Day of Class pages and provides many useful ideas and suggestions.