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Your First Semester: First Day of Classes

First Day of Class
Show students your passion for teaching, collect contact information, take attendance, introduce the course website, outline goals and expectations, and convey the learning atmosphere for the semester.

  • Set the tone
    Use your first day of class for more than passing out the syllabus. Outline your goals and expectations as well as convey the learning atmosphere for the semester. Will you be involving the students in class discussions, forming groups, or utilizing other active learning techniques during the course? Get off to the right start by incorporating these activities in the first day or week of your class. Students are likely to be more comfortable with your active instructional style if you engage them from the very beginning than if you wait until later in the semester. The tips in Chapter 5: Managing Students and the Classroom Climate of Instruction at FSU: A Guide to Teaching & Learning Practices will help you survive the first day and lay the groundwork for a successful and meaningful learning environment. For more ideas on getting students involved in the class from the very first day, see these helpful tips from Berkley's Center for Teaching and Learning.
     
  • Take attendance
    FSU has a mandatory first-day attendance policy for all classes. Nonattendance at the first class meeting will result in the student being dropped from the class. In order to enforce this policy, instructors are required to take attendance at the first class meeting and report absences to the appropriate person in their department or school/college. For further information, consult the FSU General Bulletin. Please note that some colleges and special programs have more stringent requirements for class attendance.
     
  • Distribute the syllabus and grading statement; explain the course objectives
    FSU requires that a syllabus and grading statement be passed out on the first day of class. Share your expectations with the students and let them know what they need to do to be successful in your course. See Systematic Instructional Design for tips on communicating expectations and preparing syllabi.
     
  • Collect contact information
    Collect students' current telephone numbers and addresses and let them know that you may need to reach them. Note that the public posting of student names associated with full social security numbers is a violation of Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA.) Review FSU's policies regarding FERPA.
     
  • Introduce the course website
    Don’t assume that students know how to use Canvas or that they can find material in your site easily. Show students an overview of your course website, how to navigate to populated areas, and how to use required tools. Visit the Course Production page for information about instructional technologies that can be used for both online and face-to-face instruction, including Canvas.
     
  • Remind students of their obligations under the Academic Honor Policy
    In surveys, students have indicated that the strength of an individual instructor's message about the importance of academic integrity is the strongest deterrent to violating the Academic Honor Policy. Remind students of their obligations under the policy and fully communicate your expectations to students. It is also helpful to discuss what academic integrity means in your course. Read one instructor’s explanation to his students and view a sample statement for your syllabus under the resources section. If you encounter academic dishonesty, you should follow the procedures to resolve the alleged violation in a timely manner while protecting the personal and educational rights of the student.
     
  • Learn names
    Learning names is a first step in building a positive rapport with students and creating a classroom environment that is dynamic and engaging. You can access your photo roster by going through my.fsu.edu and locating the "printable class roster" link on your class roster page there (this tutorial can help). See also Carnegie Mellon University's resource for tips on learning names.
     
  • Start the class on time, and greet students at the door when they enter the classroom
     
  • Share your philosophy of teaching with your students
    Tell about your current research interests and how you got there from your own beginnings in the discipline. Let your students see the enthusiasm you have for your subject and your love of learning.

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