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5 Strategies for Maximizing Success in Your First Week of College

Updated: Mar 15

Welcome EduMagicians,

I wanted to share with you some ways I use the first day of a college class to build relationships with students—relationship building between students and between students and me, the instructor. I teach an 8:00 am class with mostly first-year students. When they come to class, they may already be overwhelmed, and I try to make the first day a day to get to know each other. 

A theatre style college classroom
College classroom

Introductions in a college course

I have students go around the room and say their name, major, and year, and this year, I had them state their “carpool karaoke anthem.” In the past, I have had them say where they are from, what their birthdays are, any hidden talents, etc. But I decided to do a carpool karaoke anthem this year because of the show's popularity. From their song choices, I created a class Spotify playlist. As students come in, I have our class playlist playing so they can rock out to their favorite jam (as long as it is appropriate for kids - I play it. Meaning anything labeled explicit doesn’t cut). Now, I know that some students do not pay attention when others share, so after everyone introduces themselves, I ask them if someone can stand up and say everyone’s name. If someone can, then the whole class gets bonus points. Usually, no one can - but I use that as a time to encourage students to get to know each other. It is so important to get to know the people around you. 


I love using Goosechase in the fall. It is a tech tool for creating digital scavenger hunts. I divide students into five teams, and they go around campus and the education building, getting to know people and places. Even though they are rushing from place to place, they are getting to know each other. 


Flipgrid is a fabulous tool that I have used with my students to do video introductions before the semester starts. The first time I used this was last fall when I opened a grid for the students to complete before the start of classes. Although students initially were a little nervous about making a video response, they enjoyed meeting each other before class. They could recognize each other in the dorms and the dining hall. 

Syllabus speed dating

In the second class, instead of standing up in front of the room, I have students participate in speed dating and answer questions about the syllabus and a fun question. To do this, I have students stand across from a partner, and on the projected screen, I have 3 questions. The first question is for a person in row A, the second is for row B, and the last is for both students to answer. It is usually a fun question (like your favorite breakfast food). Students introduce themselves to one another, answer the questions, and have a conversation. Each round takes about 2 minutes. Students have a conversation, and then we answer the question to the large group. Then, the students in row A move one spot down the line. We rotate as many times as possible, answering different questions related to the syllabus. It is a much more engaging way to go over the syllabus, form relationships, and get the discussion going. 

Meet and Greet

Greeter (like the one at Walmart)—One of the most important things I do for the first week of classes is stand outside the door to greet the students by name. I try to learn their names by the end of the second week. It is so important to know your students’ names and get to know them. 

The PDE SAS portal is one important topic we covered during the first week of classes. I tell students that this will be their teacher's best friend. So, however they save sites, I encourage them to pin or bookmark them—they will use them often. I have presented the content to them, but I decided to change it this year. 

To continue building relationships among students, I had them jigsaw about the six tabs on the portal. First, I had students get into six groups, and each of those groups was assigned a specific tab on the SAS portal to become an expert in. The groups had to make a presentation that everyone could present. After ten minutes of devising a game plan, we jigsawed, and students worked in smaller groups with one person from each of the original 6 tabs. One person from each tab was represented in the second smaller group. Students then took turns presenting about their tab for 2 minutes. This not only got students comfortable speaking in small groups, but they got the content delivered differently and met some new people. 

How do you get to know your students and build relationships with and between students?

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