Transcript for Tips for Your First Class Video

Hello, and welcome to York University! My name is Jon Sufrin. I’m a faculty member of the department of Writing, in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies here at York.

The Teaching Commons has asked me to offer some additional helpful tips for course directors new to York.

This video, one of three, provides faculty with a few thoughts from an experienced course director on some subjects to consider for your first class.

Now, when it comes to lecture itself, a piece of advice I have found helpful over the years is the ever-useful maxim, “What you do on the first day is what they will expect all year.” Set the tone early, and clearly lay out your requirements.

By the same token, if you do all the talking on Day 1, that’s what students will expect all your classes to be like.

So, consider, for instance, creating classroom codes of conduct in your first week by asking students what they think good class/lecture etiquette involves. Further, taking some time to address how difficult or controversial subjects can be discussed in the classroom will result in a more positive student experience as your course progresses.

Similarly, will you accept questions during the lecture, or defer them to the break or the end of the class?

As that last point suggests, note that students generally expect a break for two and three hour classes. Ten or fifteen minutes (max!) is the usual practice.

Some course directors schedule a full break at approximately the mid-way point of their lecture, tutorial or seminar, particularly for longer classes around lunch or dinner.

Others schedule breaks in five minute increments throughout their instructional time.

It’s also helpful to directly remind students of your office hours and location. Often students overlook this information in the syllabus. Remind them that this time is for them to bring questions, comments or concerns about course materials to you.

I ask my students to let me know if they are coming, so I can schedule their appointments if necessary.

Something else is to remind students of are university support structures, such as the Writing Centre, Learning Skills Services workshops (highly recommended by students AND me), the Counselling and Development centre, and online tutorials such as SPARK (Student Papers and Academic Research Kit) which is located at

Another important question is what to do about laptops and other kinds of technology in class?

This is a controversial topic with literature to support all sides

But for some more information, see the relevant article (a literature review) located under “What’s New,” on the right-hand side bar of the Teaching Commons’ website.

The article is entitled “Student laptop use in the Higher Education classroom.”

Along the same lines, address the use of cell phones & texting in front of the lecturer: I’m not going to say too much about the use of cell phones in class here, only suggest you consider a course-wide policy and discuss in class.

A good compromise is to encourage those who refuse to be parted from their technology to sit in the back of the lecture hall.

In general, active learning will help unglue students from their screens.

So overall, taking a few minutes to discuss proper lecture etiquette for behaviour and tech use can go a long way!

Now, if you have TAs in your course and they are contractually required to attend lectures (check with your Administrative Assistant if necessary), you might want to position them strategically around the lecture hall.

This might help keep technology use in line, and encourage students to focus on lecture content. However, TAs should not intervene if students don’t follow lecture etiquette, but, rather, act as your eyes and ears.

With this in mind, it is wise to introduce the whole teaching team, and give them your support. Introduce your TAs by name and tutorial.

Explain in lecture what a CD does, what a TA does, and who first to talk to about various course-related concerns. Many students just don’t know how the university works, and they will find a brief macro-level discussion helpful.

For more information particularly in reference to student support and working with TAs, browse the CD Handbook, the Teaching Commons website and the relevant university websites. You can also reach out to the Teaching Commons and ask to meet with one of their Educational Developers. Thanks for listening and welcome to York! Hope this was of some help to you.