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Last week, my daughter pulled out of our driveway, taking herself off to her junior year in college. This Thursday, we drive my son to his freshman year. And then on Monday, NMC’s halls fill with all those new and returning Hawk Owls. I feel like I am in a huge swirl of comings and going, endings and beginnings. And reflection? Yup, I’ve been doing a lot of that–partly on the end of directly parenting children living in my house, but also a whole lot on how to help students right from the beginning to be successful in college. How can we help them feel they belong? That college is the right place for them and they are up for the challenge even when it gets tough? That they will make friends and find helpful instructors?  How do we help them learn to read and learn from difficult material? Stick with difficult problems? Take responsibility for their own learning? Persist in the face of set-backs and failure?

What we do on the first day can make a big difference for our students, so we all have to think about what works for us and our specific class. What understandings and feelings do we want students to walk away with as they leave that first class? If we start with that question, we can work backwards and design the day to create those understandings and feelings. Below are a few links that offer some suggestions. Another article, this one from the Scholarly Teacher blog talks about how to extend those first day activities through the first four weeks to create good habits in  students: “The First Four Weeks of the Course”

Good luck as you end summer and begin the new semester!

“What to do on the first day of class” from the Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning

“The First Day of Class: Using Meta-teaching to Help Students Adjust and Engage” from Faculty Focus

“Make the Most of the First Day of Class” from the Eberly Center at Carnegie-Mellon University–I especially like the suggestion, “Whatever you plan to do during the semester, do it on the first day.”

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