Interacting with Students during Your First Class

The first day of class is important on many levels:  It affords you the opportunity to introduce yourself and the course, to get a sense of your students, and to set the tone for the semester.  You may therefore choose to script the first class session somewhat, so you’re sure that you cover everything intended.  Prepare to meet your needs and the needs of your students by planning ahead:

Be prepared.  Before entering the classroom, refer to the UConn Faculty and Staff Resource Guide and visit CETL’s webpage on Preparing for Your First Class to ensure that you have taken care of basic logistics.

Set a goal.  Decide what you intend to achieve during the first class beyond housekeeping.  You may want to get to know something about your students while moving into an introduction to course content.  How much time you devote to each is up to you and depends on your approach to the class.

Introduce yourself.  At the beginning of the first class, introduce yourself to establish your chosen level of familiarity. Tell students what to call you (Professor, Doctor, Joe) and decide whether to tell them anything about yourself and whether to solicit information from them.

Ask questions.  Establish a give-and-take atmosphere the first day.  Students will be more at ease, and that comfort will continue into subsequent classes.

Save time for student questions.  Students may still be wondering why they are in this class.  Give them a chance to ask questions and make their own connections on this first day.

Show an interest in getting to know your students.  If the class is small, acknowledge and attempt to learn students’ names.  The Student Administration System includes students’ pictures with the roster; this tool can help you put a face to a name.  Consider using “ice breakers” to ease some of the first-day awkwardness.

Introduce your course.  Remember that students may need basic course information to determine if the course is right for them; the sooner students understand course expectations, the more informed they’ll be to make speedy schedule changes, if necessary, within the add/drop time frame:

  • Present a course content overview, or a mini-lecture, providing a broad look at the subject.  This gives students an idea of what to expect from the content of the course.
  • Consider handing out the syllabus or, if it is online, bringing it up on the overhead and reading through it with the students. This may be the only time they go over it.  Highlight your course’s student learning outcomes or objectives and expectations for class behavior.  Explain why you chose your textbook and readings, and discuss how they relate to each other and to the course content. Students typically look to the syllabus for due dates, but they may not look at the rest beyond this first opportunity.  Emphasize that the syllabus is a “contract” between the instructor and the students.

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