Friday, August 10, 2007

Thinking About the First Day

During the next few weeks, thousands of college students, and faculty, will return to campuses to begin the fall semester. Inevitably on the first day of class, thousands of syllabi will be distributed and gone over which begs the question: is this the best way to start off the semester? With each student taking at least one other course, and most taking four or five other courses, is it possible that what is discussed about the syllabus will actually be remembered by the students? And if each professor does nearly the exact same thing on the first day of class, consider the impression that will be left: I can imagine it being boring. For these two reasons alone, I avoid the syllabus distribution on the first day and opt, instead, for a writing activity that gets everyone involved. Instead of listening to me drone on and on about late work, absences, due dates, and so on, the students are immediately engaged in the coursework, which distinguishes my class from those where syllabi are distributed. Additionally, there are always a handful of students who aren't present for the first day, so by postponing the syllabus distribution, you are more likely to reach more of your students. Instead of going over each item on the syllabus, consider hitting the most important ones and asking the students to reread the syllabus for homework, and follow it up the next day with a quiz over the syllabus.

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