Some Specific Approaches for the First Day of Class
1. Introductions by telling stories (critical incidents, experiences) about issues and aspects of the course content and themes: e.g., tell as story about a time when you had a great success with _____. Depending on the size of the class, this can be done in pairs, small groups of 3-5, or altogether. Add writing to telling; write the story, during class and/or as a take-home assignment.
2. There are many other ways of introducing members of the class, but I prefer those which also get at the content issues and themes of the course (i.e., connect self and subject).
3. Associational Brainstorming on the title of the course, or a key concept, early topic, etc. “Environmental Economics,” “Mind, Body, Universe,” List all the words you associate with each word in the title. Or, “Leadership,” “Chemistry,” “Mexico,” “Spanish Literature,” “Renaissance,” “Reformation,” etc.
4. Show an especially evocative visual (slide, video clip or overhead transparency, and /or hand out copies) and have a discussion (assuming a well-chosen visual) that is bound to raise the fundamental issues, themes and problems of the course.
a) Do the same with an evocative, crucial, power-packed passage or “text.” Or with a demonstration or experiment.
5. Immerse students immediately in the discipline by posing a problem, an enigma, or a paradox at the core of the discipline, or sub field: pose the problem, ask them (maybe) to write about it, then get in pairs or small groups to discuss, then debrief as a whole class. (think, write, pair, discuss”)
6. Present an over view representational image, or metaphor, that informs the whole course, and engage the students in a discussion, perhaps to suggest refinements of it. What would they add? Subtract? How would they reconfigure it?
7. Others ??