Two ways I prepare for the beginning of the semester (that I think are important but can be overlooked) are assessing my past year’s course plan and planning an engaging first day activity.
• Assessing my past year’s course plan: Because my institution grants me substantial freedom in the content I teach, I spend a great deal of time reviewing my coursework. When planning for each class session, I print out a very informal lesson plan, and after each class I spend a few minutes documenting what went well and what I would do differently next time. Before the semester, I use these reflections to adjust my syllabus and improve my instruction.
• Planning an engaging first day activity: One of my main priorities is to plan an activity that gets students interested in the course content and builds a sense of community among students. I teach a course devoted to written communication and rhetoric, and last semester I created a group trivia game that provided students with statements from different mediums (Facebook, professional emails, Twitter, blogs, etc.) and asked them to identify the medium the statements were retrieved from. This led us into a discussion of the conventions of each medium, our expectations and participation as audience members, and the importance of effective communication.
I believe the first day of class truly sets the tone for the whole semester, so good preparation is essential.