Your syllabus on your first day of class
On the first day of class
It has been said you do half of your semester’s teaching on the first day because this is when you set the pace and tone for the entire semester. It’s your one opportunity to make a first impression of you and the class, perhaps the most impactful action of your semester. So how can you make the most of your first day of class?
It is good practice to introduce what students will be doing across the semester and your expectations through the syllabus. You can use take the opportunity to establish the ground rules of class behavior and etiquette and for all communication related to the course. It would be good to communicate how the students can reach you if they have questions or need help, including when your office hours are.
Perhaps just an importantly, it’s an opportunity to spark students’ curiosity and begin building a learning community among students and instructors. So, you might use part of that first class meeting for activities that help you learn students’ names, students to meet other students, and you to get to know the students and students to get to know you. The CFE can assist you with ideas for first day activities.
Additionally, you may want to share some of your teaching and learning philosophy, as well as your professional journey. Some faculty use this first day to allow student input on aspects of the course, such as classroom etiquette and expectations. On day one you may introduce this and begin the discussion, completing the process during the next class meeting. You may find the MSU Guide to Inclusive Teaching helpful.
Since many new-to-MSU students are not familiar with Brightspace, and even those familiar may not understand how you have set it up, students will find it helpful if you demonstrate how you have structured the Brightspace learning environment and how you expect them to use it.
Finally, you can use some of the first class period to explicitly share how students can best succeed in your course, introduce MSU resources to help them and communicate that you sincerely care about their success in your class and in college.
Before the First Class
Your syllabus is completed so you’re ready for the first day of class, right? Well, probably not. Following are some considerations you probably want to address before the first class meets.
- Set up your class in Brightspace. Consider recording and posting a welcome video using Panopto that introduces yourself to your students and orients them to your Brightspace setup for the course.
- Ensure the MSU Bookstore has your required textbooks and supplies in stock.
- If you are using Open Educational Resources check with the MSU Library that your course materials are available.
- Use the Library's Course Reserves Service to set aside books, films, sound recordings and other physical items for class use.
- Visit the physical space in which you will be teaching and test the technology to
ensure you know how everything works.
- Ensure your ADA needs and those of your students are met in the classroom.
- If you expect your students to use the MSU Writing Center, you may list it as a resource in your syllabus. For help with an entire class on an assignment it can be helpful if you contact the Writing Center ahead of time.
- Familiarize yourself with how students will evaluate your course by visiting the MSU course evaluations website.
- If you are teaching a Core class, ensure you are aware of the relevant Core learning outcomes and required assessment artifacts.
- Re-familiarize yourself with the Faculty Responsibilities in the Code of Student Conduct.
Ideally, students will have turned one low stakes assignment or completed a quiz for a grade. While this may not be possible in every class, early exposure to how you grade can help students determine what they need to do to be successful in your class.
In appropriately sized classes, learning all of your students’ names can help establish a good rapport with students.
If you began a discussion about class etiquette and expectations, take time to complete the activity of co-constructing the class contract.
Each student should know the grade they are earning in your class at this time. You can remind them of your office hours to meet with you to learn how they might improve their grade in the class going forward.
If you have students who you suspect may be struggling in your class, use the MSU Early Alert System. Some students may be struggling in multiple classes and the Early Alert will notify professional Success Advisors at MSU who will reach out to your students to schedule a success advising appointment.
Many master educators regularly check in with their students to learn how the class is going from the students’ perspective. There are many ways to check in with students on a weekly, monthly or mid-semester cycle. You want to do this with the intention to use the feedback to improve the class so do not wait until too late in the semester to make meaningful improvements. One efficient way to poll your students is to use a survey that parallels the questions from your course evaluations.