The first day of class can be a bit anxiety-inducing for students… and it can often produce a bit of nervousness and stress for instructors as well. These suggestions, summarized from points made in McKeachie’s Teaching Tips by Marilla Svinicki and Wilbert J. McKeachie, can help you prepare for your first day and thus ensure that you’ll get started on solid footing.

  • Think through the steps you can take to set up your classroom in a manner that’s most helpful for students and most effective for your course. These steps could include: writing or projecting helpful course information (including your name, and an agenda for the day) onto the board or screen at the front of the room; arranging the desks and chairs in the way that best facilitates learning and interaction within your course; or, preparing any other tools or handouts that could orient students to the course and its topical coverage.
  • Consider using the first few minutes of the inaugural class meeting to allow students to adjust to the new setting. Bear in mind that they may be coming in from a variety of classes or perhaps a job, and they’ll appreciate having the time to make the transition to this new class environment. That said, don’t be aloof; greet them as they enter the room, and engage them in friendly “small talk” on topics related to your course in particular or school in general.
  • Whether you choose to start with a splashy entrance or simply introduce yourself with a smile and warm welcome, do be deliberate about the way you open your class. This demonstrates confidence and prepares students for what they can expect from you and your course.
  • Want to get students interacting? Use an icebreaker activity that helps them become more familiar with you, your class, and their fellow students.
  • To help you and your students get to know one another’s names, create or supply tent cards that can be placed on their desks. (That way, your focus can remain on the speaker… rather than your memory of his or her name.)  (Svinicki and McKeachie, 19-21)

Reference: Svinicki, Marilla, and Wilbert J. McKeachie. 2014. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers,14th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.


What steps do you take to get ready for the first day of class? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments section below.