Welcoming First Semester Students

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Strategies to help welcome students and start the first classes off on the right foot.

Expect Late Arrivals

Be sure to welcome students as they come in and be ready to cycle through your introductory material, course guidance, and Instructional Plan several times, in different ways, as you settle students in over the first week or two. Some students will be late or lost during the first days of classes, with needing to find parking, print timetables, confusing bus routes, travel delays, etc.

Many international students may experience visa delays which delay their flight to Canada. For many of these students, the flights and connections will mean that they are quite jet lagged when they arrive on campus. Some may still be organizing housing and food.

Huge, Warm Welcomes

Why not big up the welcome? Acculturative Stress Theory shows that feeling welcome, being part of celebrations, and finding a trusted leader are three things that can help students new to an environment settle in and succeed.

Give yourself a chance to meet students by having them engage in course-related, small-group practice tasks while you pull a chair from group to group and sit and say hello. It may take you a few classes to have a word with everyone, but it will help you to learn a bit about each student and provide you with a chance to welcome each person to the course.

The first weeks can be very confusing for first semester students. Students are more likely to come to you for academic help later in the semester if connections are made in the first few weeks.

Encourage Everyone to Get Familiar with eConestoga

International students have usually limited experience of Learning Management Systems. Domestic students may also be more accustomed to using Google Docs. Help the students understand how integral eConestoga is to your delivery. Refer students needing technology help to the Library where Tech Tutors are available with getting on eConestoga, using Word, logging in, and more.

Access to Names and Pronouncing Names

Being able to say a student’s name in greeting, to indicate a comment or question is welcome, or to ask for a change in behaviour is crucial, no matter how many students you have in the class.

Use cardstock name cards and have the students put their name in large, neat print on both sides. Invite them to note on the card how to pronounce their name, if people often get confused. It is important that everyone write on both sides so that the rest of the class can learn their names as well. In a computer lab, a short name card could sit on top of their monitor. You can use these cards to assign seating for tests and to randomize groups during activities.

Ask the class to email to you, if they wish, a very brief audio in which they say their name for you several times and add a few pieces of information they are comfortable sharing. These can be emailed to you directly or shared in the class within eConestoga.

Ask for a volunteer to collect the cards at the end of each class and pass them to you.

Download a photo ID list from the Employee Portal, in the Faculty Tab, to help you to review your students’ names. Choose the course and scroll down to “Output Options” and change the radio button to “Photo ID.” Do not circulate the Photo ID or the Class List with student numbers. Always use the “Class Sign-In Sheet” options if you are going to circulate a list. Remember to protect students’ privacy at all times.

Second Language Use in Class

Some of you may have classes with new international students. You may find that students are using their first language to clarify information with each other during class. It may take a few weeks for students new to Canadian English pronunciation to catch what is being said in the class. Just think about how challenging it is to listen to other dialects of English for the first time! Scaffold by using the board to identify key terms, as well as PowerPoint, repeat instructions twice, explain terminology and jargon, and tell students to feel free to ask you to explain something they don’t catch.

It may be efficient for students to use a first language for a quick clarification, but repeated use means the students are not practicing the course-specific terminology and you don’t know what is being said.

Set class protocols from the start, gently suggesting that the students ask you to repeat or call you over to their group so they are working with the material in English. Remind them that this is good practice for future assessments and interviews. Be respectful and welcoming but help the students to become accustomed to using English in the classroom. This is especially important in classes where there are many international students and a few domestic students.


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