Skip to main content

Best Practices

The LTO Best Practices

Issue No. 73: The First Day of Class

Welcome to the seventy-third issue of The LTO Best Practices. Throughout the year, the Learning & Teaching Office spotlights a timely topic in education. This August, our topic is "The First Day of Class".

This issue will serve as supplement to our New Faculty Orientation. We hope these resources and best practices will help new and returning faculty smooth their transition into the classroom.

For more related tips, check out our page of resources for new faculty. Many of the tips from this issue of Best Practices are also available for download as a pdf.

Check out our page of Teaching Tips handouts for more downloadable documents on a variety of teaching topics.


Best Practices

We have gathered the following best practices for the first day of class from resources found on the LTO website.

Before the First Day of Class

  • Meet your librarian! Your subject librarian can give your students a tailored library orientation that will help them complete their assignments for your class. The library can also take care of your course readings, including printed course packs and e-reserves. Learn more about library services for faculty.
  • Get help with D2L Brightspace! As soon as you get your course assignment you can request a D2L Brightspace course shell using your account. If you need help using Brightspace, there is support available both online and in person. Check out the Brightspace Support page to learn more.
  • Teaching with technology. If you’re interested in integrating technology into your classroom, the Digital Media Projects Office can help. Contact the DMP for assistance in setting up lecture capture, web conferencing, clickers, blogs, wikis, or other social media platforms in your classroom. Learn more about the services provided by the DMP
  • Prepare your TA/GAs. If you will be working teaching assistants or graduate assistants, check out our manual for supervising instructors: Best Practices when working with TAs and GAs [pdf]. We also have a set of resources to support faculty members supervising graduate students.

On the First Day of Class

  • Set the stage! Whatever you plan to do during the semester, do it on the first day. "Model all aspects of your course (group work, activities, participation, technology, etc.) in that first class, especially if what is coming is different from the norm."
  • Introduce yourself. Give students a sense of your qualifications for teaching the course – discuss your prior work experience, fieldwork, travel, research or publications (Fink). Also give students a sense of who you are as a person. Share something about yourself. Tell the class what you enjoy most about teaching, or what you’ve learned from you’re students (CFT). 
  • Make your class relevant. Many times, students will be enrolled in the course without having a clear idea of what they will be learning. Help students understand the significance of your course. Introduce the subject matter and tell students why it’s important. Connect your course content to the real world with anecdotes, current events, or pop culture references. Explore more tips for engaging and motivating your students.
  • Distribute and review your course outline: Distributing “a comprehensive, learning-centered syllabus during the first class promotes a positive attitude in students, as it shows you care about the course and have made an effort to plan it carefully” (CFE). Ryerson's Course Management Policy requires that a course outline be distributed either electronically or in hard copy by or at the first meeting of every course. Download a guide to creating course outlines that meet university policy [docx].
  • Get to know your students. The first day of class is the perfect time to do introductions. Create a positive, social classroom environment by giving students a chance to interact with each other with ice-breaker activities. Get a sense of student backgrounds, prior knowledge, and why they are taking the class by giving them a pre-test. Access a sample Google Form and Spreadsheet that can be used to survey your students
  • Create a class contract. Have students work collaboratively to set the rules for your classroom. By engaging students with the formation of a social contract, you can create a mutually agreed upon set of rules that will create a culture of respect in your classroom. Learn more about creating class contracts and classroom management [pdf]. A sample classroom contract is available as a Google Doc to download or share with your students.
  • Clarify instructor responsibilities – Let students know what you will provide them so that they can be successful in your course. Will you provide them with specific types of feedback, study guides, slides, notes, or review sessions? (CFT) Set boundaries for communication with students – let students know if you won’t be able to answer emails on the weekends or the evenings, or if you will be away for a certain period of time during the course (CFT). Read more tips for managing student emails.


Professional Development Opportunities

There are many opportunities for professional development in teaching at Ryerson. Check the LTO website regularly – we have many great programs to assist you in your teaching that run throughout the year including:

D2L Training for Instructors

The DMP offers two-hour introductory sessions covering the basics tools needed to run your course in D2L as well as sessions covering more advanced topics. In addition, troubleshooting drop-in clinics are available on Wednesdays from 2-3PM.

Learn more about hands-on D2L training sessions


Next Issue

"The LTO Best Practices" is produced monthly by Michelle Schwartz, Instructional Design and Research Strategist at the Learning & Teaching Office of Ryerson University.

Do you have any thoughts, suggestions, or best practices that you would like to see appear in this newsletter? Please send all submissions to We look forward to including your contributions in our next issue!

Contact Us

Location: Kerr Hall West, room KHW373.
Phone: 416.979.5000 x6598