Lyons: The First Day of Class (TOTW #1)

This is a post from the “Tip of the Week” series by Richard Lyons which is no longer available, although it is archived on Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine.  Below the post is a list of nine other resource from colleges and universities about making the most of the first day of class.

The First Class Meeting

Steadily increasing political and market pressures are requiring colleges and universities to retain those students who come through their doors throughout each course, then throughout the entire program study until their completion. The primary responsibility for retention falls upon the individual professor. The first class meeting has historically proven to be one of the key points when students withdraw from classes. The strategic-minded professor who manages the first class meeting effectively will achieve a large share of his/her retention goals. Following are nine proven practices for retaining students at the start of the term.

  1. Orchestrate a positive first impression of you and the learning environment. Today’s student has been conditioned by fast-action television and movies, instant-response computers, and other technology to make quick assessments of visual stimuli. Therefore, make sure the classroom is neat and clear, and your appearance professional.
  2. Identify yourself effectively, to individual students as they enter the classroom, and to the class as a whole when beginning the agenda. Remember, students are increasingly value-conscious, so demonstrate your competence without being perceived as arrogant.
  3. Clarify class goals and expectations. Your careful, probing review of an eye-appealing syllabus that addresses nearly any question a reasonable student might have about the course is the key tactic.
  4. Up to this point, you have controlled the stage. Address students’ needs for social interaction by conducting an interactive icebreaker. In the process, you will foster relationships that will lead to the development of study groups and friendships.
  5. With students in an open frame of mind, gather useful information from students that will enable you to identify and adapt to learning challenges inherent in the contemporary classroom. Using or adapting the “Student Profile” included in The Adjunct Professor’s Guide to Success would be especially useful for this purpose.
  6. With the completed Student Profiles in hand, learn and use students’ names. You might also employ name tents or tags to facilitate students’ learning each others’ names.
  7. Whet students’ appetites for the material in your course. Show a video clip from last night’s news, or display a critical headline from today’s newspaper, that demonstrates the relevance of your subject matter.
  8. Before they get away, gather some informal feedback from students – anonymously on 3 x 5″ index cards. Simply print three open-ended questions on the board, including “are there any critical questions to which you didn’t receive answers?”
  9. Reassure students of the value of the course. Provide them several sound reasons why their class and outside study time will be a wise investment to their future.

Professors who employ these proven tactics create “win-win” situations for the student, the institution, and themselves!

The archive site for this post is here. 

Here are some other sites with information about how to get your classes off to a good start.


Rick W. Burkett runs the John A. Logan College Teaching and Learning Center, teaches history, and heads an educational nonprofit. He publishes blogs on a wide variety of topics, including history, teaching and learning, student success, and teaching online.

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