Center for Faculty Excellence

Use Classroom Assessment Techniques


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Teaching Tips III: The First 3 Weeks of Class

By the end of September, many of your students will already have made up their minds whether they will return for Spring semester. Research supports the idea that you have only about a month to draw them into your class and set them on a path toward success.

With this in mind, you should make the maximum possible use of the first day of class, and pay particular attention to the first three weeks of class.

Don't just go over the syllabus and dismiss your students on the first day! Here are four important things to do on day one:

  • Begin to establish a positive classroom atmosphere. Talk about and model a classroom where student participation is both expected and respected not only by the instructor but also by the students.
  • Make your expectations clear. Review the specifics of what students will need to do in order to be successful.
  • Establish the precedent that class time is valuable . Start on time (perhaps after allowing a few extra first-day minutes) and be sure to cover at least a small amount of course content on day one.
  • Initiate momentum. Leave the students with at least a small content-related task to be completed before the second class.

Want more ideas about the first day of class? See the CTE presentation at

Here are three things that can make a big difference in the first three weeks of class:

  • 1. Help students make the transition into your class environment. Talk with your students about specific habits and techniques that can help them succeed in your class. Don't just assume that they know this or can figure it out.
  • 2. Direct students' attention. Many students think everything they encounter in your class is equally important, and they drown in the details. Think out loud for them, and model the ways in which they can recognize which information is central and which information is peripheral.
  • 3. Initiate interaction. Passive students quickly enter "TV mode" and look for the mute or fast-forward button. Use classroom practices that require action on the part of your students – speaking, writing, voting, or problem-solving rather than just listening and taking notes.

Want more possibilities? Visit "101 Things You Can Do The First Three Weeks of Class" at