I recently read “Don’t Waste the First Day of School“, a blog post by Catlin Tucker, where she proposes several activities that can be done with students at the first class – and they don’t involve going over the syllabus. Tucker suggests some community building activities, learning inventories and also mentions how she reads aloud to her high school students!
I’ve also read aloud the same book to every class I’ve taught since 1995. It’s Arthur’s Teacher Trouble. I invite the students to guess why I always read that title. If you are familiar with that Marc Brown tale, do you know why I read it?
Read an additional seven creative ways to kick off college classes (other than just reading the syllabus) in “What Works for Me: First-Day Class Activities” from Teaching English in the Two-Year College. The ideas can easily be adapted for younger students as well, and in her introduction Judy A. Pearce makes a good case for why the same old syllabus-overview might not be the best way to set the tone for the year:
From the time we are small, we’re told that first impressions count. Many of us tell our students that the title page of a paper is important because it’s the first thing the reader sees. As teachers, we try to model in the classroom what we expect of the students; when they’re writing, we write. If they’re doing group work, we also participate. If they’re revising, we bring in a piece we’re in the process of revising. Much of this modeling, though, occurs exclusive of the first day of class. On that first day, our goal may be to provide an overview of the class and distribute the syllabus and policy handouts. Some of our colleagues, however, begin modeling from the first day; they design a first or second day of class activity that sets the tone and establishes the framework for the course throughout the semester.