Getting Started

With the beginning of the semester just around the corner, many instructors are strategizing about how best to start productive classroom conversations. Students who speak even briefly at the beginning of a class meeting are more likely to participate in discussions going forward, and a well-chosen icebreaker can help everyone join in. As quick, low-stakes, and often fun activities that involve students at the beginning of a session, icebreakers can be a good way to learn about who's in the classroom, reduce anxiety, and engage all students in thinking together about course content.  

CRLT provides examples of icebreakers and guidance for using them in the Handbook on Departmental GSI Development. We also recently polled our Graduate Student Instructional Consultants (GSICs) to gather a list of their favorites. Here are some good ideas we received when we asked the GSICs to "tweet" us a particularly effective icebreaker they have used, seen, or heard about: Read more »

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Students walking on campusAs winter term wraps up, many U-M teachers are thinking ahead to their spring and summer courses. When teaching in a short semester with a limited number of class sessions, it's especially important to make good use of the first day. How can you use an initial meeting to do more than review the syllabus and begin to learn students' names?

CRLT provides many resources to help you quickly establish a productive learning environment in your courses. This page provides an overview of resources related to goals you might have for the first day, from building rapport among students to getting them engaged with the course material. You can also click on the links below for great ideas about:

As always, CRLT staff are available to consult with individual instructors about effective teaching strategies before, during, or after your course. 

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The first days of class are important in setting the tone for what is to come, and it is crucial to think carefully about how you present yourself and how you get the course established. The links in this section provide information and suggestions for getting started effectively on the first day of class.


Learning Students' Names (University of Nebraska)
List of 23 techniques for learning students’ names in both small and large class settings.

The Most Important Day: Starting Well (Wright, 1999)
Ideas for faculty members on how to use the first day of class to start building relationships with students.

The First Day of Class (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Seven tips for handling your first meeting with students, and specific strategies in response to common concerns of beginning teachers.

101 Things for the First 3 Weeks (University of Nebraska, Lincoln)
Specific ideas for generating interest in course material, building community in the classroom, helping students transition into the course, and encouraging active learning. Read more »

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