Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 23 seconds

How to create a learning community in your first class session

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 23 seconds

Here’s my first official #clmooc “make” and it’s based on one of my passions: I like to build community early on in my classes. But I also recognize the importance of context. I also think a good how-to is non-linear and offers alternatives, so let’s see..

Pre-class preparation:
– trip to the grocery store
– free up some space in your memory
– think of ice-breakers and games you might play and how to fit them with your course content


Bribe them with food
It works every single time! I usually bring chocolate, and I always use it for a pedagogical reason. E.g. In my education classes, I bring a variety pack (Galaxy Jewels, Quality Street, etc.) and a pack of one of the really popular types (Ferrero Rocher v popular here), and I let students choose, then we discuss what is a pedagogically better choice given learner differences, and we discuss whether chocolate as a choice even fits all learners (e.g. Some ppl are diabetic, dieting, have no sweet tooth, and might feel excluded) – and then from there sometimes I dig up a “flexible” alternative such as salty crackers or sugar-free gum… In another class, I use a variety of chocolates to get students into groups based on the type of chocolate they chose (a way to break up friends when needed). In other classes I use chocolate or food choices as analogies (see here for edu-OER/food, and also this one where I got flowers and we used flowers as an analogy for learning, and one student’s blogpost on it) – the flowers thing doesn’t work for everyone, though (the macho guys see, embarrassed by them).

Learn their names
One of the first things I try to do is learn students’ names. I look at the class list in advance which helps me know what names to expect, and then when they enter, I shake their hands and introduce myself and when they’re seated, I write down the names. I try to call some people by name during that first class to get myself going. There are millions of other ways to help you learn their names (e.g. Having their first assignment include a personal photo) … Find one that works for you 🙂

Have fun! Play a game, do an ice breaker…
I am almost obsessed with ice-breakers or fun activities to do at the beginning of class, things to help people relax a little and get into a good mood. Laughter is for me one of the main ways of gauging how well a class has gone. But I always find a game or ice-breaker to fit my particular course subject. Here is one about games you that I played with my “educational game design” students:


Disclaimer: never use a how-to guide about educational phenomena,because education is all about context!

6 thoughts on “How to create a learning community in your first class session

  1. I appreciate your comment about how-to’s being non-linear and including alternatives. Often times when we think about how-to writing we think of functional text. And there always seems to be a set of instructions (first do this, then do this, etc.) or a recipe (add this ingredient, then add this one). What would happen if you added the baking soda after adding the egg (or vice-versa) when making a cake? One person’s how-to doesn’t necessarily need to be another person’s. Thanks for sharing and glad to have you on board the #clmooc train.

  2. I like the idea of using chocolates – I might try this out in September.

    I also especially like your disclaimer! Context is key.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.