First Impressions: Activities for the First Day of Class

samurai photo

Betty Anne Buirs, who teaches English at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia, offers several activities for the first day of class in this piece from Magna Publications titled First Impressions: Activities for the First Day of Class.

Her article gets me thinking about what your favorite first-day-of-class activity might be.

My go-to activity is having everyone in class introduce themselves by simultaneously typing a paragraph of introduction into a single Google Doc. The result is pure havoc, but the havoc begins to break down some of the barriers students put around themselves, and it helps them get comfortable playing with a new technology whose collaborative affordances I regularly use in my composition classes.

Student always successfully complete their paragraphs, and students connect with one another by commenting on others’ posts. This past Monday, we discovered two people in a class whose hobby is collecting Japanese samurai swords. I can imagine few activities that might uncover such unusual common ground.

The discussion that follows isn’t about themselves — it’s about the experience of working in a new technology using its collaborative affordances, and about the surprising things they learned about one another.

How do you break the ice on the first night of class? What works? And have you encountered any disasters? You can tell us!

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Daniel Hocutt

Web Manager and Adjunct Professor of English for the University of Richmond School of Professional & Continuing Studies.