First day of class

A page within CATL Teaching Improvement Guide

Brief description 

Having a great first day of class can:

  • Get students excited about course material.
  • Give students confidence that they can succeed in class.
  • Alleviate fear and anxiety on the part of students.
  • Allow the instructor to demonstrate they care about student learning.
  • Help build student-to-student and student-to-instructor connections.  

What students say they want on the first day of class:

  • To learn about the course difficulty (e.g., amount of work required, tips on how to do well).
  • Professional information about instructor (e.g., how to address instructor, grading standards).
  • The class content & structure (e.g., info on syllabus, required readings).  
  • Procedural details (e.g., is attendance required, academic integrity information).


Below are a variety of activities UWL instructors use to enhance their first day of class and their thoughts on the impacts those activities have:

Tips to have a great first day of class

  • Perform activities where students get to know each other.
  • Try and use some humor and lightheartedness on the first day.
  • Encourage students to ask questions of you, the instructor.
  • Perform activities that reinforce that course content is relevant to the lives of students and/or future careers.
  • Share study tips and strategies that can help students be successful in the class.  


  • Bassett, J. (2011). Students' first day of class preferences: factor structure and individual differences. North American Journal of Psychology. Vol 13 (3), p 373-381. 
  • McGinley, J. & Jones, B. (2014). A brief instructional intervention to increase students' motivation on the first day of class. Teaching of Psychology. Vol 41 (2), p 158-162. 
  • Shadiow, L. (2009). The first day of class: how it matters. Clearing House. Vol 82 (4), p 197-200. 
  • Wilson, J. & Wilson, S. (2007). The first day of class affects student motivation: an experimental study. Teaching of Psychology. Vol 34 (4), p 226-230. 

Udermann, B (2015). First day of class. In Teaching Improvement Guide. University of Wisconsin at La Crosse Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from