Got an email from my chair today with an exhortation to make the first day count and not have your students be those who post #syllabusweek nonsense on Twitter. I feel like we've been there, done that and most people do something that day. I've tried different things over the years.
- Spending a good bit of time on course-linked, getting to know you sorts of exercises in a class that was going to be interaction heavy. Evaluation: students don't like playing silly games with strangers any more than adults at mandatory training do. It is worse when they are silly games about hamsters.
- Doing a full lecture, passing out the syllabus at the end and announcing there would be a quiz on the syllabus at the start of the next class. Evaluation: They were afraid, but in a functional way. I was the teacher to whom crap should not be given.
- Hybrid of #1 and #2. Some time getting to know, some time on lecture, syllabus at the end. Evaluation: Meh. It was an unremarkable start to an unremarkable semester. Also, I need better ice breakers.
- Variant on #2, The Paper Chase style. Looked at the little ID photos of my merry band of freshpersons that you can get with the course registration system. Started calling on people by name having never met them, asking them questions about course material (that anyone with reasonable general knowledge should be able to think about and answer). Evaluation: They were very, very, very afraid. This group was always prepared for class, but paranoid about rightness in a way that hurt creative problem solving.
- Assigning a group task to small groups that could be done with a HS graduate's level of knowledge, but related to future course material. Best solution got 5 bonus points on the syllabus quiz in the next class. Evaluation: Within the small groups, the bonding experience motivated by points did build strong relationships that carried forward into the semester. Winning/losing aspect was highly motivational. I'd do it again.
- from unknown sender