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5 ways to make that first week sparkle in higher education

Hi all,

I wanted to share with you some ways I use the first day of class to build relationships with students. Relationship building between students and between students and me, the instructor. Just so you know, I teach an 8:00 am class with mostly freshmen 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.

Below are 5 ways that I do that:

1. Introductions: Yes, I do have students go around the room say their name, major, year, and this year I had them state their “carpool karaoke anthem”.In the past I have had them say where they are from, birthday, any hidden talents, etc. But, this year I decided to do carpool karaoke anthem because of the popularity of the show. 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 make the cut). Now, I know that some students are not paying attention to when others are sharing, so after everyone is done introducing 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 each other. It is so important to get to know the people around you.

2. Goosechase - I love using Goosechase in the fall. Goosechase is a tech tool that you can use to create digital scavenger hunts. I put students into 5 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.

3. 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 where I opened a grid for the students to complete prior to the start of classes. Although students were a little nervous about doing a video response at first, they enjoyed meeting each other prior to class. They were able to recognize each other in the dorms and in the dining hall.

4. Syllabus speed dating - During the second class instead of me standing up in front of the room I have students participate in speed dating answers 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 for person in row A, second question for row B, and the last question is for both students to answer it is usually a fun question (like what is 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 conversation 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 we can answering different questions related to the syllabus. It is a much more engaging way to go over the syllabus, form relationships, and get discussion going.

5. Greeter (like the one at Walmart)- One of the most important thing that I do for the first week of classes is that I stand outside the door to greet the students by name. I really 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.

One important topic that we cover during the first week of classes is the PDE SAS portal. I tell students that this is going to be their teacher bestie. So however they save sites I encourage them to pin it or bookmark it - they are going to be using often. So, in the past I have presented the content to them but this year I decided to change it up. In order to continue with building relationships among students I had them jigsaw about the 6 tabs on the portal. First, I had students get into 6 groups and each of those groups were assigned a specific tab on the SAS portal to become an expert in. The groups had to great a presentation that everyone in the group could present. After ten minutes of devising a game plan we jigsawed and students worked in smaller groups with 1 person from each of the original 6 tabs. Basically, 1 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 with speaking in small groups, but they got the content delivered in a different way and they met some new people along the way.

Also, special shout out to the 8:00 am class who received 2 bonus points because one person was able to name all 42 students in class!

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

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