6 Tips For The First Day Of Class

Posted by Debby on 5th January and posted in Teaching and Learning

Dr. Delaney Kirk posted a very useful list of things to do on your first day in class. I agree with all of these. It’s important to set the tone right up front and let students know they can expect. Are there any others we should add to the list?

1. Develop Your Philosophy of Teaching
Think about what it is you are trying to do in the classroom.  Are you passing on knowledge of a specific subject?  Teaching them how to learn?  Giving them practical information on how to be an expert in their field?  Role-modeling skills to become productive, useful members of society?  Or, all of the above?  The readings, assignments, and exams you choose to give your students should reflect what you are trying to accomplish.  Your students should understand that your assignments are not just busywork but that these are important in order to be successful, both in the class and later in their careers.

2. Establish Your Credibility
Beginning the first day, establish that your students will benefit from taking your course.  Share your professional and academic credentials.  Bring in newspaper and journal articles with examples of applications of the topics you are teaching.  Illustrate that your knowledge is current.

3.  Determine Your Class Culture
Decide how formal, or informal, you want your class to be.  This affects everything including how you dress for the classroom, how your students address you, and how you take questions.  Keep in mind you also get to decide on your attitude each day when you walk into the classroom.  You want to be upbeat and enthusiastic so that the students will be excited about the course also.  Show students that you care about them as people: learn names, and create a classroom culture where they can feel comfortable asking questions.  Your students are less likely to be disruptive if they know you know their name and if they believe you will hold them accountable for being professional.

4.  Be Clear About Your Expectations

Set expectations and be consistent in enforcing them.  If attendance is important to you, tell the students this and let them know you will be noting any absences.  If you want assignments turned in on time, then either don’t accept late papers or take off points if they are late.  If you have a cell phone, bring it with you and make a display of turning it off before class.  Whatever you do, be clear and consistent about your expectations.

5.  Use the First Day of Class Wisely
To emphasize that you are taking the class seriously, give the students an assignment to do that will be collected at the next class meeting.  Or assign some reading to do and announce you will have a short quiz on the material during the second class.  If the class involves writing, then have them write.  If you will be using cases, then do a short case that first day.  Keep in mind that the students are trying to figure out on that first day what the class expectations will be.  Give the students an idea of what they, and you, will be doing.

6.  Handle Discipline Problems Right Away
Remember the importance of “withitness.”  The most effective teachers are aware of what is going on in their classrooms and enforce their policies quickly and fairly.  If a student is coming in tardy and you do not address the problem, he or she will not suddenly decide to come to class on time.  If you do not say anything, you have essentially rewarded the wrong behavior.


  • I also put together a short team assignment the first day that we do in class. This helps to get the students used to working in teams, shows them that they can count on me as a resource, and gets them excited about the material. I find something recent in the newspaper or a recent court case makes a good first day assignment.

    Thanks for sharing this info with your readers!

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