Image of archaeology students moving an artifact.

First impressions count for a lot. Give considerable thought to how you will begin the first class session of the semester. Will you use humor to break the ice? Would a short narrative about your own learning experience or a famous person in the discipline capture students’ attention? Will you set the tone by standing behind a lectern, venturing among the desks and chairs, sitting in a circle with your students?

Not only on the first day, but every day of the semester, a well-planned, brief, but clear beginning is the best way to ensure your students refocus their attention and conversation onto the learning tasks at hand. Simple actions such as saying, “Good morning,” directing attention to the day’s outline on the board or screen, and asking for a student to summarize the previous class session are quick and effective.

Just as students need a definite beginning to class, they also benefit from a clear ending. A few ideas to help ensure you create “closure” for each session:

  • Leave enough time for summary of the session—by you or them—and questions.
  • Refrain from tossing new or altered assignments at students at the end of class. If you must give a new assignment, make sure you provide time for explanation and questions.
  • At the end of each class, pose questions or a dilemma for them to ponder for discussion (or a quiz or one-minute paper) next time. This helps bridge the distance between class periods and encourages students to think about and discuss the subject outside of the classroom and to prepare for next session.
  • Early in the semester, tell students you will end three minutes early each day so they can gather together their papers, put on their coats, etc. In return, request that they not begin to do this until you have signaled the three-minute close-out.
  • A “thank you” or encouraging comment at the end of a session can go a long way to making students feel good about their efforts in the course.
  • Remain after class for questions.