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First Day of Class


Planning for the start of the semester is on my mind. I've always believed the first day of class sets the tone for the semester. I teach large sections of gen-ed history and for the fall, most of my students will be freshmen. This semester, I'm planning to use a short, get-acquainted activity so students can meet some of their classmates on the first day. I'd be interested in hearing your ideas. 


  • Do you use an ice-breaker on the first day?
  • Do you have other ideas to make that first day count?


Click here to get more ice breaker suggestions.


In my online classes, the students do an Introductory Discussion Post where they have to tell us Three interesting facts about themselves.  In my oncampus classes, we do the same thing, but they have to introduce the person next to them after learning 3 interesting facts.  I'd love a more innovative and fun icebreaker so please share!


I use this same type of introductory discussion board post in all of my courses, both seated and online.  It helps me and other students to learn about each other, including students in a seated course.  In the seated course, I also have students introduce themselves to at least three people in the course; I allow them to talk for a few minutes amongst themselves.  It helps them to make connections in class; they often notice some of the same people in other areas of campus and in other courses.  Once they have introduced themselves in my course, they are more likely to talk to those people again if they see each other elsewhere.  I stress to students the importance of forming a network of fellow learners, a valuable source of motivation and inspiration as they move through the semester and through their academic careers.  I explain that having a fellow student who understands your journey is very comforting.  It takes a village...

Frequent Commenter

Good idea for online classes  Woman Very Happy 


I teach my students to use mnemonics as they study throughout the semester so I do a fun exercise in which I explain how the keyword mnemonic technique works (you take a word or name and try to find an abstract image inside that word, then create a crazy image that connects to the word or person).  Then:

  1. we go around the classroom using the technique on each student's name
  2. as a class we create a wacky image for each person
  3. I write (or draw) that image on the board. I don't write the students' actual names though - just the image.
  4. then, when we've created wacky images for every student, I go through the drawings (or image descriptions) I wrote on the board and together the class is usually able to name every student just by looking at these images.


 Here's a video I created that I show them which explains how the keyword technique works:



It can be challenging to make interesting images out of peoples names, but it's definitely doable. For example, for a student with the name of "mike", we look at the student's face or clothing to see what's unusual about his look. Suppose he's wearing a tie.  If so then we imagine Mike wearing a huge "mic-rophone" around his neck instead of a tie.


"Claudia" might have nice eyebrows so we imagine scary "claws" coming out of her eyebrows.  It's weird, but it works and it's fun and it's ultimately useful for the students to memorize their classmates' names.  


Try it! If you have any questions about it I'd be happy to answer them! 

Frequent Commenter

Very creative! Heart




    One of the main things I emphasize to my student on the first day of class is:


  1. To have Good Time Management
  2. To have good Study Habits
  3. and last but not least, to have their (personal) house in order so that they can be successful in their classes.

I hope this stays good advice.


Anthony Woods

City Colleges of Chicago




I have a couple of ice breakers that I use. The first one, I have students introduce themselves and tell how long they have been at the college,what they are studying, and since I teach nutrition, they are to name their favorite comfort food.

The other one I use, and students love this one, I give the students a bag of the fun size M&M's (the ones you get for Halloween or Easter) and tell them not to open them until I say so. Then I pick a random color of M&M and have the students open their bag as I call on them. They then have to introduce themself and tell me something they want to learn about nutrition for every M&M they have of the chosen color. Note: You have to watch out for those students who can't help themselves and eat the M&M's before it's their turn!



I'm loving all these ice breaker ideas. I wonder if anyone has other ideas for the first day of class? I'm trying to avoid the traditional "read the syllabus" day if I can. Does anyone have ideas for larger classes (100+)?


Love the M&M ice breaker idea!


I’ve done a similar icebreaker with M&Ms: I create a few questions in advance of class and I match each question with an M&M color (for example, Red—Where are you from? Green—What’s your favorite song?) In class, I pass out the M&Ms, tell the students to open the package and choose one M&M. (They can then eat the others.) Then I announce the questions and the colors. After that, we go around the room, and they answer the question associated with the color they chose.


baloons.jpgbaloons.jpgStarting Your Class with a Spark! 


  • Give each student a balloon (any color). Have them to think about the features of a balloon and discuss what causes a balloon to stay afloat.
  • Discuss traits that would help a college student stay “on course.”
  • Allow students to blow up their balloon. Form 2 groups if you have a large class.
  • Students are to toss their balloon in the air and pretend the balloons are students in the class.
  • Object of this icebreaker is to not let any balloon fall to the floor. A falling balloon indicates failure to complete a class, failure to seek help from the professor, or failure to seek tutoring. During the discussion period, allow students to generate more ideas. I usually give the students about one minute and thirty seconds (or less).
  • Discuss your observations. Some balloons fell to the floor when the student became unfocused. This is a great time to talk about multi-tasking. Also, be sure to emphasize the importance of interdependence—students can encourage one another to succeed. Faculty and staff are here to help students succeed.

The fun part: Allow the students to stomp their balloon and return to their seats.

I hope you have a great semester!


Note: Each semester I do this activity, my students leave the classroom talking about the balloons. Step outside of your comfort zone and try it.


I love the balloon idea Essie!


Thank you.


All of thse ideas are great. I'm going to incorporate them into my classes in the fall. Thanks!




I've found students love "I like when and I hate it when."  Give your students an index card and ask them to put three things they like instructrors to do on one side and three things they hate on the other.  Then read these anonymously and talk realistically about how your class is organized. 


But to truly engage students I debunk Ancient Aliens and other history programs.  Talking about students perceptions of history changes their perspective.





Just came across an icebreaker that I intend to adapt as a first day of class icebreaker activity. Here is the source, and I've cut and paste the original activity as well. 


September 1, 2017
Here’s an opener that involves teams of people sharing their expectations and suggestions about the training session. The activity taps on the emotional intelligence of the team members.
Ask each participant to secretly write a negative expectation about the training session. Randomly select one of these negative expectations and ask all team members to offer friendly suggestions for reducing its probability. Repeat the procedure with the other negative expectations. Later, replay the game with each participant writing a positive expectation and discussing friendly advice on how to increase its probability.
To brainstorm strategies for removing negative experiences and increasing positive experiences of the training session.
  • Minimum: 3
  • Maximum: Any number, divided into teams of 3 to 5.
  • Best: 12 to 30
20 to 30 minutes, depending on the number of participants in each team
  • Blank pieces of paper
  • Pens or pencils
Room Set-Up
Arrange seats around tables to accommodate each team
Organize teams. Divide the participants into teams of 3 to 5 people each. Seat the members of team around a table.
Ask for negative expectations. Tell the participants to think of their negative expectations of the training session. Ask them to think of what could go wrong during the session. Do not give any example because you don’t want to anchor the participants’ thoughts.
Distribute the supplies. Distribute blank pieces of paper to the participants. Ask each participant to secretly write a word or a short phrase that specifies his or her fears and worries about the training session. Instruct the participants to keep hide what they wrote.
Collect the negative expectations. Ask the participants to fold the piece of paper in half to hide the negative expectation. Ask one of the participants to collect these folded pieces of paper, mix them up, and pull out one at random.
Display the selected negative expectation. Place the randomly selected piece of paper at the center of the table so the word or phrase is visible to everyone. Read this negative expectation aloud.
Discuss suitable strategies. Tell the participant who wrote the expectation not to identify himself or herself. Ask this person to participate in the activity just like the other player: Ask everyone to offer friendly suggestions on how to reduce the probability of this negative expectation. The participants do not have to take turns; they conduct a normal conversation.
Conclude the round. After a suitable period, ask the players to conclude their conversation about reducing the selected worrisome expectation.
Repeat the activity. Open another folded piece of paper, display the negative expectation, read it, and repeat the friendly conversation as before. Continue the activity until all selected negative expectations have been discussed.
Replay with positive expectations. Ask the participants to secretly think of a positive expectation they are hoping for. As before, ask them to write this expectation on a piece of paper (as a single word or short phrase), keep it hidden from the others, and fold the piece of paper. Conduct the activity as before, except this time ask everyone to give friendly advice on how to increase the probability of wished-for outcome.
Share the suggestions. Ask each team to share one each of its negative and positive expectations and suggestions for reducing the former and increasing the latter.

These are all great ideas!  I'm going to try the balloon and one with the Bacchanalian video (see I remember that one for drunkenness - LOL)


I have a couple I like to use:


We play a Kahoot Flag game, or one of the short public elementary school games, to see who is the brightest so you know who you want to sit with during the semester.  One semester we had a young man from Kenya who missed his own flag and laughed with the class about it. 


Checker board game, each square had something in it like "likes cats" "plays baseball" "likes the Cowboys"...  just to name a few.  Then they have to walk around the room and find someone different to sign each of the squares.  This is a little hectic but they seem to find new friends and get out of their chairs.


2 truths and 1 lie.  Although we don't know each other we play this to see what we can learn about each other.


I have an Introduce yourself to the class slide where the last question asks about their favorite cookie....  this is an Intro to Computing class so if they don't understand they do by the time the class/course is over.


Here's a little interactive presentation I built some years ago to demonstrate to students that they can use the keyword mnemonic to remember other students' names.

Frequent Commenter

I'm going to try this. I I love it!Smiley Very Happy