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The First Day of Class

August, 2010

F or

many students and teachers the first class of a new semester is a very important one as it often sets the tone for the rest of the course. Apart from introducing the aims of the course and informing students about the assessments and course structure, it is equally vital to create a positive atmosphere that is going to help students feel motivated to ask questions, share opinions and be active participants. To create a positive atmosphere: - Learn your students’ names - Get to know your students - Share expectations

Learning your students’ names L earning

names is obviously much more challenging in large lectures than in tutorials. However, even in large classes, students will appreciate every effort that is made to learn, remember and use their names.

In my own career as a student, I remember that my best teachers always seemed to take some extra effort to learn (and use) students' names as quickly as possible. Miriam Jaworsky, Pima Community College, Arizona

Here are some tips on how to remember names and faces. Using students’ photos • Look at students’ ID photos and

names in Blackboard before your Jason first class, so you can start to Amy familiarize yourself with your students even before you first meet them. In Blackboard there is a webpage called Class List for each class, listing students’ names and photos. It can be accessed via the control panel of the respective Blackboard course site or directly under “My Courses” in AIMS. • Create your own register/roster with student ID photos


within your tutorial classes. Keep a small note book and draw a sketch of their seating arrangements. When you join each discussion group you can jot down important points made by individual students and with the help of your note book you can easily refer to students by using their names. • Use a ‘naming cycle’ so each student has to introduce

themselves as well as say the names of all the students that have already introduced themselves. • Ask students to sit in alphabetical order. So all the As

In-class activities

and Bs will be in the front and Cs and Ds behind etc.

• Ask students to create their own name

• Video the part of your first class when students are

tent card which they can then stand up in front of them.

introducing themselves and giving their names. You can then view it as often as you like to help you learn any names you can’t remember.

• Use word associations created

by yourself e.g. Winnie has wavy hair, or the students can be asked to use an adjective or noun to describe something about themselves that begins with the first letter of their name.

• Create small discussion groups


Hi, I’m Diane and I love dancing.

Getting to know one another G ive

a brief introduction of yourself using a letter on PowerPoint or your homepage on the web. Then invite your students to write you a short informal introductory letter about themselves, their expectations and any concerns they may have. Students will often be very open and it gives you the opportunity very early on to learn something more personal about each of your students.

S tudents

can post up some information about themselves with a photo in their course site. Introductions can also be done using a variety of tools such as the discussion board, voice board, wikis, blogs and ePortfolios.



the whiteboard or on a PowerPoint slide show students a selection of 5 pictures, numbers and/or words that somehow relate to you. Get students to ask you questions about each one. They can then do the same thing for themselves and work in small groups to find out about each other.

The ye ar I be gaitynU w orkin g at C

Students’ and teachers’ expectations A sk students to share their expectations of the

course with their classmates in terms of CONTENT, SKILLS and TEACHING and LEARNING ACTIVITIES (TLAs) in a wiki platform. This helps teachers better understand their needs of their students. Go over their contributions the following week and discuss with them the changes made to the TLAs based on their feedback.

W hatever you plan to do during the semester, do it on the first day. For instance, if you plan to use discussions, have students start talking on the first day. If you plan to use groups frequently, put students in groups on the first day. If you plan to use extensive writing, have some kind of short reflective writing activity. If you want the students to be in charge of their own learning, start with an activity where they are the experts, and cannot rely on you for information.

T ell

the students what the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) are and what you will be doing. You can also tell them that you will sometimes provide choices in learning activities so they will be involved in the process of decision-making.

D on’t

forget to spend some time discussing your ‘class rules’ (attendance, in-class behaviour, submitting work, etc.) so students know what is expected of them.

If you have any tips on creating a positive atmosphere and would like to share them please post them on the Teaching Ideas Gallery site.

Many thanks to the following teachers who contributed ideas: • Dr. Aileen L Y Chan

• Dr. Paul Shin

• Prof. Felipe Cucker

• Prof. Lilian Vrijmoed

• Dean Fisher

Editorial Team:

Senior Lecturer, School of Continuing and Professional Education Professor, Department of Mathematics Associate Head, English Language Centre

• Maria Jose Pareja

Lecturer, Division of Language Studies

• David Santandreu Calonge

Associate Director, Office of Education Development and General Education

Associate Professor, Department of Biology and Chemistry Professor, Department of Biology and Chemistry

Chief Editor:

Penny Akers (ELC)


Hokling Cheung (EDGE)

Assistant Editor:

Josephine Chen (EDGE)

Graphic Designer:

Anthony Wong (EDGE)


Vicky Chan (EDGE)

First Day of Class  

CityU's Teaching Ideas Gallery - Issue 1