First Day Strategies

First Day of Class

The first day of class can be an anxious experience for your students. Students enter the first day of class with at least four questions (Ericksen, 1984):

  • Is the class going to meet my needs?
  • Is the teacher competent?
  • Is the teacher fair?
  • Will the teacher care about me?

To this list we should add:

  • Will I be able to succeed?
  • What does the teacher expect from me?
  • What will I need to do to get a good grade?
  • Will I be able to juggle the workload for this course with the workload in my other courses?

Keep in mind that the first day of class sets the tone for the whole course. This is the best opportunity you have to establish your expectations for student achievement and behavior. Take advantage of the fact that most students will be looking for signs to indicate what the course holds for them, and will therefore be highly attentive. Therefore, be careful to communicate to students not only your high expectations for them, but also your commitment to and support for their learning.

Recommended Checklist for the First Day of Class

Prior to the First Day

  • Visit your classroom prior to the first day
  • Print and review your class roster with pictures of your students using the IU Photo Roster tool in Canvas
  • Create an outline for how you will use your class time
  • Reflect on the climate you would like to create in your classroom (see also classroom civility); you may want to address some of these issues on the first day of class, too.
  • Send a welcome email to your students, perhaps inviting them to use NameCoach to record and learn the pronunciation of each others' names.

On the First Day of Class


For more about the suggestions and broader frameworks, see How to Teach a Good First Day of Class from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

It is good to know what your students are like before you meet them on the first day. Find out more about students at IUB by looking at the IU Factbook