students working in whiteboard on first day of class July 19

First Day of Class Activities that Create a Climate for Learning

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There’s no discounting the importance of the first day of class. What happens that day sets the tone for the rest of the course. Outlined below are a few novel activities for using that first day of class to emphasize the importance of learning and the responsibility students share for shaping the classroom environment.


Four puzzle pieces July 5

Four Things to Do on the First Day of Class

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First impressions are important and you can make favorable ones on the first day of class by doing things just a bit out of the ordinary. Here are some ideas.

  1. If it’s a course where students don’t think they know anything about the content, start by dissecting course title. For each keyword, ask student to report (or write down) the first word or phrase that comes to mind. Make a collection of these on the computer or white board. Accept all associations. Then use the collection to provide an overview of the course, pointing out (where it’s appropriate) that students aren’t as clueless about the content as they may think they are. It’s also a useful way to establish a common foundation, the place on which you can start building the course structure.

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Young professor on first day of class July 20, 2015

First Day of Class Activity: The Interest Inventory

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The interest inventory is a simple tool to help you acquaint yourself with your students. Unlike many icebreakers, the interest inventory is a paper-based activity and students do not have to give answers aloud in front of class. The interest inventory, therefore, helps you get to know your students privately and allows you to ask different questions than you would during oral introductions.


January 28, 2013

Love the One You’re With: Creating a Classroom Community

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It’s the first day of class. They shuffle in, spot similar life-forms, and slip in with that group. Hipsters sporting wild hair and tats, buttoned-up and serious young scholars, middle-aged moms and dads, maybe a couple of aging hippies. One or two sad souls choose spots isolated from the others; they don’t want to identify with them for reasons of insecurity, arrogance, or something else.


February 23, 2010

A Classroom Icebreaker with a Lesson that Lasts

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I bring a box to the first day of class — especially if it’s a course with beginning students. At precisely the time class starts, I walk into the room with my box filled with random, quirky objects. I like to include a small Alf doll, a pad of Post-its, some scissors, perhaps a can of Slim-Fast, a candle, a rock, a comb, and maybe six or seven other objects indiscriminately gathered as I leave for class. As soon as I enter the room, I put the box on the table; take each article out; place it on the table; and finally, when all of them are out, return them to the box. Then I ask the students to take out a piece of paper and write down as many of the items as they can remember.