IT Teaching Resources

Building community and setting norms during the first day of class

A collection of community and relationship building activities for the first day of class

Use Case Promising practices

This is the second of three resources on building community remotely. Please refer to the other resources for information on building community before the quarter begins and throughout the quarter.

The first class is key for setting norms, making expectations clear, and building classroom culture. Use this time to clearly outline your expectations for respectful, active participation, and to allow students to begin getting to know one another and make connections.  

Set Norms During the First Class

  • Set Zoom Norms – Explain class norms around audio and video. Set the norm that it is okay for students to appear in comfortable clothing or messy backgrounds. Explain protocol for when interruptions or technical challenges arise. 
  • Explain Participation Expectations – Describe your expectations for how and when students should participate verbally and nonverbally, when breaks will be given, and provide guidelines for how students should handle interruptions. Consider using the Chat features such as thumbs up/down or the coffee cup. Also discuss expectations for other technology during class, and set norms for all types of activities you will do in class, such as discussion, small groups, etc.

Build Classroom Culture

  • Set Norms as a Community – Start class using Poll Everywhere to ask for students to share about themselves or to set norms as a community. Share results via ‘Screen Share.’ Bring up concerns you have about online classes and ask students to give suggestions. 
  • Solicit Student Input About Participation – Have students submit recommendations for how they can (non-verbally) acknowledge other classmate’s points or how they would like participation to flow. Ask students to keep the chat open during class time and be explicit about the purpose of the chat during class, whether it’s for questions, share outs, etc.  
  • Share About Yourself – Share your own cultural basket (a collection of artifacts that are meaningful to you) or a story about yourself. Allow students to ask questions.

Build Relationships with One Another

  • Teach Something – Ask students to come in ready to teach a classmate a 1-minute skill or mini lesson. At the start of class, put students into pairs and have them teach one another. Then, share out to class.
  • Small or Whole Group Discussions – Put students in small groups to talk about questions that were sent out prior to class. These can be on the course (Why did you take this class?) or more personal questions (What was your favorite academic experience?). Suggested Questions

Incorporate Student Voice

  • Introductions – Give students the opportunity to introduce themselves and share the answer to a question or two. Tip: be sure to create an order so that introductions can flow smoothly–the list of participants on Zoom is in a different order for each user! Suggested questions: 
    • What attracted you to this class? 
    • Think of your favorite class up until this point. What made that class special? What qualities stood out to you?
    • Instead of the most interesting fact about you, share a boring fact about yourself. 
  • Create a Poll Everywhere – Include questions that engage students personally and academically and use as a way to incorporate student voice during the first day of class
  • Have students present their cultural basket (above) photos and explain them!