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The First Day of Class

The initial contact between faculty members and students on the first day establishes students’ perceptions about the teacher, the subject and the learning dynamics of the course.  Research suggests that a bad first day experience can affect students’ grades, performance, and motivation for the remainder of the semester.  Spending time getting to know your students, letting them get to know you, reviewing the course syllabus, and involving them with the subject of the course will help to establish a healthy learning environment. 

Dos and Don'ts for the First Day

What NOT to Do

What to Do

Prepare ahead of time!

Make just enough copies of the syllabus

Make extra copies of your syllabus

Wait until the day of your first class to make copies

Copy all materials for the first class ahead of time

Wait until the day of your first class to find the classroom

Preview the teaching environment a few days before your first class

Wing it!

Practice your lesson ahead of time

Make a great first impression!

Dress informally

Dress professionally

Arrive late

Arrive early

Let your students get to know you.

Provide students with little to no information about you

Briefly inform students about your educational and professional background

Don’t introduce yourself at all

Tell students what you want them to call you and how to pronounce your name; invite students to get in contact with you and tell them how best to do it

Show little to no enthusiasm for the course

Generate enthusiasm for the course; briefly relate your personal interest in the course content.

Get to know your students.

Show little to no interest in getting to know the students or learning their names

Learn students’ names/nicknames

Consider ice-breakers

  • Social: self-introductions; three-step interviews; self survey
  • Subject matter: specific surveys; course expectations or concerns


Do not collect any personal information on students

Collect student information and/or interests (index cards, survey, etc.)

Teach on the first day.

Distribute a vague, brief, or unclear syllabus

Distribute a comprehensive, well structured syllabus

Simply hand out the syllabus

“Teach” the syllabus, drawing particular attention to the most important items; develop a creative way to go over the material

Overwhelm students with too much information

Introduce the course topic and/or some initial material

Do not engage with the course topic or material in any way 

Incorporate an activity that allows students to engage with the course topic

Do not provide students with the opportunity to ask questions

Invite students to ask questions and participate

Set the tone for the entire semester.

Let students leave early

Make productive use of entire class period

Set a negative tone for the semester

Model the expectations and behaviors you want to establish in your classroom for the semester