With the start of a new year, and the start of a new term, come a new group of students in your classroom. In addition to standard first-day-of-class activities, such as introducing your course topic, stating your attendance and grading policies, and reviewing course materials, you may wish to devote time to introductions.

In McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, Fourteenth Edition, Wilbert J. McKeachie and Marilla Svinicki offer some simple suggestions for getting to know one another. Given the time it can take to make it around the room, these ideas are perhaps best suited for use in a smaller class, a discussion group, or a section. However, perhaps you can find ways to adapt them to a course that takes place online or in a lecture hall.

  • For a simple introductory icebreaker, ask each class member to share his or her name, hometown, and intended major or program. Once all students have introduced themselves, take the time to share a bit about yourself, and answer any questions the students might have about the course. This tactic helps students become familiar with each other, as well as with what they’ll encounter over the coming term. It also establishes that you are open to their questions and comments.
  • When conducting introductions, ask your students, “What’s one thing that we might not guess about you upon our first meeting?” or a similar question that reveals something unique and surprising (but not overly personal). In addition to helping the class get to know one another, this will give you something memorable to connect with each person.
  • Have students introduce themselves to the people in the neighboring seats. Then, have the students introduce each other to the rest of the class, sharing the others’ names and perhaps one or two interesting things they learned about the person they’re introducing.

By taking the initiative to introduce yourself to the class — and introduce each student to one another — you create an environment that fosters openness and interaction. Students can start to build connections that may lead to study partnerships, open dialogue about course topics — and perhaps even long-lasting friendship.

Reference: Content adapted from McKeachie, Wilbert J. and Svinicki, Marilla. 2014.  McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, Fourteenth Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

What are your tips for first-day-of-class introductions? How do you encourage students to get to know you? Any suggested icebreakers for larger lecture classes or online courses? We welcome your ideas, and we’re sure others would like to hear them as well. Submit them via the comments section.