First Day of Class

First Day of Class

The first day of class offers an exciting opportunity to make a good first impression and lay the foundation for a successful semester. A study conducted by the University of Illinois found the best way for an instructor to do this is to convey “communicative competence,” which is the most important factor in influencing students’ first impressions (Hayward, 2001). The essentials of communicative competence are:

  • Organizational Skills

Being organized demonstrates competence and professionalism. An instructor should focus on both micro-level issues—be on time, have a role sheet prepared and lecture notes in order—and macro-level issues—laying out the expectations of the course and the process by which those expectations will be realized. (See also Learning Goals)

  • Command of the Subject

It is vital to begin teaching substantive content on the first day of class, utilizing whatever method will be used most consistently for the rest of the semester, as this will enable students to familiarize themselves with the teaching style of the instructor. This also gives instructors the opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in the course material, and it is therefore essential to have an organized lesson prepared that introduces fundamental concepts related to the course.

  • Ability to Create Interest

Activities on the first day should also be designed to spark student interest in the subject matter. This can be accomplished by engaging students through intriguing questions, interesting facts, stories, instructor and students’ explorations into personal connections to the material, or visual or auditory aids that give life to class content.

  • Speak and Explain Ideas Clearly

In preparing a first-day introduction, lecture, or other teaching technique, an instructor should focus on delivery of content as well as content itself. Articulate information clearly, audibly, and at a pace that is comprehensible. (See also Effective Lectures)

  • Building Community

A shared sense of community in the classroom can increase student satisfaction, student participation in discussion, and overall academic performance (Elliot, Gamino, & Jenkins 2016).  Some of the best ways to begin building community in the classroom and to foster student participation include ensuring the space is well-lit, clean, and at a comfortable temperature, engaging students in a group (or small-group) activity, getting to know the students by name, asking questions that provoke discussion, and providing positive oral and written feedback to student responses (Elliot, Gamino, & Jenkins 2016; Kelly 2010). (See also the ATL “Community in the Classroom” annotated bibliography)



Elliot, D., Gamino, M., & Jenkins, J. (2016). Creating community in the college classroom: Best practices for increased student success. International Journal of Education and Social Science, 3(6), 29-41.

Hayward, P. (2001). Students’ initial impressions of teaching effectiveness: An analysis of structured response items. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Communication Association, Atlanta, GA.

Kelly A. Rocca (2010). Student participation in the college classroom: An extended multidisciplinary literature review, Communication Education, 59(2), 185-213.