August 17, 2016

The first day of class – what will you do?

Posted by Laura Guertin

I wrote a post exactly one year ago on Items for the start of the 2015-2016 academic year. Instead of repeating all of those items (which included several links to articles about the syllabus), I thought I would focus this post on the first day of class.

Zip forward to your first day of teaching this fall semester. You gather all the materials you need and head off to your classroom. You might write some items on the board, set up the instructional technology, organize your papers, and then… you still have some free minutes to spare as students come walking into your room. What do you do? Do you pretend to read something on your papers that you already know is there? Do you act like your technology is not set up yet? James Lang wrote a post for The Chronicle of Higher Education on The Minutes Before Class. He shares that, “I can use the time to enhance the learning that will take place in the hour that follows, to build a more positive atmosphere for class discussion, or simply to get to know my students a little better.” And we know that the more connection a students feels to our campuses, even with individual faculty, can help with student retention, student commitment to learning, and overall student satisfaction.

Now the time has come, and your first lecture of Fall 2016 officially begins. What do you do? Well, Kevin Gannon has compiled The Absolute Worst Way to Start the Semester. He emphasizes that the first day should not be wasted as a “Syllabus Day” but a day to set the tone and engage students right away. Terry McGlynn echos this in Why I teach on the first day of class, that the first day is a scheduled teaching day, and faculty need to take advantage of the opportunity to begin teaching right away.

So head into your first day with energy, enthusiasm, engagement, and geoscience content! But don’t try to cram in too much – James Lang also warns us about The Last Five Minutes of Class, that there are more thoughtful and strategic ways to end our class time than pushing announcements and reminders out to students.

Check out this post for more Ideas for the first day of class, and don’t forget the SERC – Starting Point resources for the First Day of Class. Some additional posts that are not in the “Items” list include Advice to new faculty, Fall 2015 and What content to put in the syllabus (and what to leave out).