As the year draws to a close, many of you have given that last test and graded that last assignment, so enjoy your well earned break. In just a few days or weeks a new term or course or semester will begin though, so we compiled a few tips for your first day back.
Having a smooth first day of a class or seminar is important! Your first day sets the tone for the rest of the course so being prepared is essential. Here are some practical tips for ensuring success.
1. Be Early
Plan on arriving with enough time to check the physical layout of the room. Make sure any technology you plan to use works, the furniture is arranged correctly and you have the materials you need. As students begin to arrive, greet them and begin learning their names. Creating a friendly and informal setting while students are arriving can help "break the ice" prior to your class even starting, thus giving you more time at the start to engage your students without them feeling shy.
2. Start and End on Time
Beginning class on time sets the tone and expectation for the duration of the course or seminar. Show your students that both your time and their time is valuable, so beginning and ending promptly is important.
3. Introduce Yourself
Do more than just state your name; tell a little bit about yourself. Share things about where you are from, why you are teaching this course, your family life or things that interest you. This helps students relate to you and creates an environment of openness. You might want to encourage students to share a bit about their interests and motivations for being at your course. This doesn't have to happen verbally or in a group setting, you could simply have them fill out a short questionnaire which will help you remember them better. You can even get creative and work in examples from their hobbies or interests into future lessons or discussions!
4. Explain the Course
Go over objectives, course requirements, assignments, grading, work load, etc. You should make sure you have (or create) a syllabus or other organizational tool for students so they have a guide to reference later. Be clear about your expectations regarding class participation, assessments, attendance policies and even things that might seem obvious like cell phone use. Make sure you allow time here for questions from your students.
5. Start Building Community
This is especially important if you plan to use cooperative learning activities in your course! Students will work together much better if they already feel a connection with one another. Many teachers use icebreaker activities to get to know their students during the first few days of class. These are usually simple games or problem solving activities to help everyone get to know each other.
6. Make Sure Every Student Has What They Need
Are you using any kind of technology in your class? Do you students need access to the online learning management system, software programs, or the educational portal in use by your training centre or training department? Make sure you allocate time to double check that everyone has the access they need! Nothing kills momentum faster than students who are having technical trouble, so plan ahead and make sure you understand these systems as well as you can yourself, then provide clear instructions (in writing in case students forget) and have a process in place to confirm that everyone has what they need.
7. Assuage Any Fears or Insecurities
Sometimes students arrive at a course nervous that they don't have the skills they need or fearful that they may fail. Pressure to perform may cause them to struggle or lose focus. Sometimes the fact that you're extremely prepared can intimidate students who might feel they're not up to snuff! It's worth stressing the fact that if students put in the work and study diligently, you'll work with them to give them an excellent chance of achieving their goals. It's also a good idea to highlight any review groups or extra resources that may be available outside of class. A few words of encouragement can often go a long way to helping students succeed!