Lesson planning for day one

As semesters are nearing a start, I wanted to reblog an overview of my plan for the first day of class. There are several more items in the Day One category at the right.

The first day of class offers several challenges — demonstrating your ethos, covering important material and setting a tone for the rest of the semester. It can be hard to do it all well while also having students wandering in late, realizing they are in the wrong room, etc.

Here is an overview of how I approached the first day of class:

  • Information cards: I used the back side of old business cards and had the instructions for students up on the screen. I asked only basic questions like name (as you want to be called), preferred e-mail address, goal for this course, any concerns about the course. I have this set up well before class starts and pass out the syllabus with the cards so students who arrive early can keep busy. I do not collect the cards until the end of class so students can add to them as we go along. I use the cards for attendance rather than call the roll.
  • Introductions: After briefly introducing myself, I have students do introductions of each other. See exercise here.

  • Syllabus overview: I hit a few highlights of the syllabus. Do not attempt the read the whole thing — mine is 10 pages! I try to make the overview a balance of the good and the bad — attendance policy, textbook, how to reach me, point breakdown, first assignments.
  • Why are we here?: Take a few minutes to hear the students’ thoughts on why public speaking is required for their major. Find a description of one way to do this here.
  • What is communication?: I close the class by defining some basic terms like communication and giving an overview of the models. I like to bring a soft ball to toss to represent messages going one way by throwing the ball to students (linear model) vs. going two-way by having students throw the ball back to me (interactional model) vs. multiple messages by having students describe how those who tossed and caught the ball signaled as they threw it (transactional model). I close with a list of scenarios and asking “is it communication?”
  • Define goals: Because I have just told the students “you cannot not communicate” I take a moment here to overview goals for the class. DOING communication is not a challenge because you are always doing it, the challenge is to learn to do it BETTER. I tell them the three goals related to communication competence are 1) strategic, 2) goal-oriented and 3) audience-centered. I let them know that these are the goals we wish to pursue this semester.
  • Next time…: I close every class with a slide that lists the topic and any assignments for the next class.

If you have time or wish to define communication after the students read the material, another nice first-day activity is to have students get into small groups and review the syllabus together. I would ask each group to find one thing they like and one question they have. After they have had time to discuss it, hear their information. If you are open to it, you can allow students to suggest reasonable changes to policies (moving a writing assignment due date that is near Homecoming, for example) and agree to make that change if you can.


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About teachingpublicspeaking

I believe public speaking can go from most dreaded class to favorite class. I'm a former public speaking college instructor who spent years seeking out activities, assignments and examples to make the class interactive as well as educational -- they are collected here. I welcome suggestions for additions.

2 responses to “Lesson planning for day one”

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  1. Promoting discussion in class « teachingpublicspeaking - July 25, 2012

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