- Syllabus finished?
- Course website complete?
- Brain filled with a bit of excitment, hope and nerves?
If so, it must be the first day of class!
Our Pedagogy Project is filled with great assignments, in-class exercises and grading tips, and I'd like to offer one suggestion for the first day of class. The first day of class is important for setting the tone of the semester, and for me, it's imperative to establish the level of student participation and conversation that will fill the rest of our semester together.
This exercise is a version of the Think, Pair, Share as outlined by Cathy Davidson.
1. Pass out index cards to each student.
Yes, you can use a piece of paper instead, but the small form factor of the index cards establishes that this is a specific excercise and not a lengthy writing assignment!
2. Set your timer for 3 minutes.
3. Ask students to write down three things as it relates to the class topic.
My class this year was called Click Here to Continue: Bodies, Identities and Practices in a Digital Age. It is about digital technology, tools and practices and how they are constituted by/through our social and cultural practices. The students in the room were asked to write about three ways in which social and cultural practices are visible in the digital technology in their lives. They didn't have to deciper the meaning -- they just had to note down three observations in which technology and culture are interacting in various ways.
4. Set that watch or timer again. Ask them to turn to someone they didn't walk in with, and compare index cards to come up with TWO deductions they could make from their observations.
This is where they start to come up with some meaning or theoretical approaches. They will compare their observations and try to understand two main deductions from their notes. This does a few things: it gets them talking to someone new, and shows them that their own observations and reflections are critical to understanding the theoretical texts in class. It gives them something concrete to latch onto and makes their own theoretical framework part of the learning experience.
5. Class discussion.
Have some of them share these theoretical deductions. It can be fun to hear about their major points and then ask them to share the original observation that lead to that point -- it shows them that you take the student thought process seriously, and that their "scratch thinking" is just as important as the final outcome. It gives framework to class discussion as well as providing the chance for different folks to speak in different capacities. It can be easier for shy students to provide some vetted material rather than having to think on her feet without preparation.
How do you start your semester each year? Do you read the syllabus together? How do you make that engaging? I'd love to have other 1st Day of Classes suggestions below!