1. Project a recent nutrition news story on the screen as students arrive. For example, a recent study in JAMA found that kids and teens consume almost 70% of their calories from ultra-processed foods. This catches attention and demonstrates relevance while also raising questions that taking the course can help address….You can also do this in synchronous online lectures by including or posting on the screen as students join.
2. I stopped going through the syllabus word by word electing to highlight important takeaways and expectations and encouraging them to read the syllabus as a contract and that by enrolling they are agreeing to the terms. For the past several years, I have recorded a video that does walk through the syllabus in more detail and post it along with the print version on the course LMS page. This saves me some precious class time and is also helpful for students that might enroll after the first day of class.
3. After welcoming them and introducing myself, usually sharing what brought me into the field of nutrition along with a bit about myself professionally and personally, I’ve often opened the class with a short video. While several years old, “Time Travel Dietitian” breaks the ice and illustrates the evolving (and often confusing) science of nutrition. While they misspell as "dietician" and not all "facts" are quite right - it also allows opportunity to comment on the abundance of misconceptions in nutrition. You might have seen it and use it, but if not, you'll get a chuckle!
4. Because of the class size, to begin getting acquainted I have used a series of polling questions and have generated bar graphs or word clouds with answers – why they are taking the class, majors, where from, favorite food, etc.…. I’ve also asked students to name a food they consider “healthy” and one they consider “unhealthy” (provides some humorous answers from a big group and gives me an opportunity to let them know that all foods can have a place in an overall healthy diet!).
5. If time permits after some opening engagement content, course orientation, and addressing questions, I’ve used some highlights from recent surveys as a sort of state of nutrition. The International Food and Information Council’s annual Food and Health Survey can provide relevant statistics about perceptions and practices surrounding food choice – I’ve sometimes posed the same question from the survey to the class as a polling question and then show the IFIC survey results for the nation. Also see my last post about food trends for 2022 - that might generate good discussion as well!
Just a few ideas - every semester is a bit different! Here is a First Day of Class resource from my university's Center for Teaching. What is your approach for the first day of class?!