First Day of Class Tasks

Engaging Students on the First Day of Class

An idea for engaging students in the learning process on the first day of class

I have discovered that students who participate in an ACTIVE learning process, where they have some CONTROL, become more engaged in a learning environment. That is, if they are given an actual TASK to complete of their choice, they will typically rise to the occasion. These TASKS can be designed to be simple at first but graduate to meet the motivational levels of the students and or complexities of ongoing course materials.

Accordingly, after my usual course introduction, distribution and review of syllabus etc., and in attempt to ENGAGE the students on the ery first dayI have tried this idea a few times with some reported success:

  1. In anticipation of the first day of class, I prepare a list of a variety of TASKS each to be distributed to a student. Each TASK is different and typed clearly on a small slip of paper. Some TASKS are to be completed immediately...that is within the current class time. Other TASKS are assigned for subsequent class meetings.
  2. The TASKS are mostly related to the specifics of the subject matter of the course. Some are more demanding than others. Some are very simple, and some are even unrelated to the course but might meet the current needs of a particular student.
  3. I read each TASK out loud and request a volunteer to accept the TASK. Students toward the end of the process and students who fail to volunteer are asked to choose at random.
  4. This process of TASK distribution holds some real value for me as an instructor. Firstly, it serves well as a personal introduction for each volunteer. In addition, I can do a quick evaluation of the type of students that exists in the class based on their TASK selection preferences. Recognizing some of the "personality traits" of the class helps me to adjust, early on, the management of that particular class in pursuit of specific learning goals.
  5. Finally, the process itself, albeit a little corny, creates a more relaxed, cooperative and hopefully inviting classroom atmosphere.

Examples of TASKS for a math course might be:

  1. Bring in some colored chalk and a 3X5 card.
  2. Find out the hours of operation and location of the tutoring center at BCCC.
  3. Bring your calculator and favorite music CD to the next class.
  4. Solve the following math puzzle on page of your text.
  5. List 4 reasons why you, personally, should study math.
  6. Determine the answer to the following question: Who is George Polya?
  7. Find out where you can locate the answers to your homework problems.
  8. Introduce yourself to your classmates using only 5 words.
  9. Find out where you can purchase the TI-83 Plus graphing calculator for the least cost.

Examples of TASKS for a business course might be:

  1. Go to: businessweek.com and read a current article that interests you.
  2. Use the BCCC website to find out the details about the next cultural event taking place at the college.
  3. Count the number of steps from our classroom to the BCCC Library.
  4. Bring in the latest copy of the Wall Street Journal.
  5. .Bring a bag of pretzels to the next class.
  6. Go to: bucks.edu, search and find the definition of an educated person.
  7. Visit the Transfer/Career center at BCCC and bring back some supporting pamphlets for your classmates.
  8. Listen to 90.9 FM tomorrow, and report back to the class about a current business related event.
  9. Go to: http://www.careerinfonet.com and research: What are the top 3 occupations expected to grow the fastest through 2012?
  10. Tell your classmates what course you are most excited about taking this semester.
  11. Bring in a copy of Peter Drucker's obituary.