Planning Your First Day

The Benefits of Being Prepared

Being adequately prepared does take additional time, but it is worthwhile because you will be:

  • more effective when explaining difficult concepts.
  • more organized – you will have a game plan.
  • able to focus more on students and their understanding of the material.
  • better able to respond quickly and confidently to both questions and the unexpected.
  • more confident and increase the confidence that students have in you.

Before Your First Day Checklist

  • Teaching remotely: Test the software you will be using (e.g., Microsoft Teams, Zoom) and become familiar with the functions and tools available in the software (e.g., breakout rooms, screen sharing, chat).
  • Teaching in person: Visit the room to check the furniture arrangement and availability of chalkboards, whiteboards and audiovisual (AV) equipment, such as a projector or document camera. Ensure you know how to operate the AV equipment, you have the access code for the AV panel if required, and determine if you need any adaptors to connect your device. You can search classroom profiles online to learn what equipment is available and contact Classroom Technical Support for help or ask your TA supervisor.
  • Teaching a lab: Find out where the supplies are, how to get equipment, and any safety procedures. Do you know how to work all the equipment? Have you thought about how to explain it to students?
  • Be inquiring and critical: Do not assume that everything in the lab manual or seminar package is necessarily correct or explained in the best possible way. Take the opportunity to perform the experiment, if possible, or do the exercises prior to the session. This will help to identify any areas where there is potential for difficulty with procedures or concepts and increase your ability to successfully troubleshoot.
  • Do you understand what you are teaching? You may want to read some resources, attend some lectures in the course and/or attend a lab/seminar which is given by a senior TA in advance of your own.

Preparing to Teach

When preparing to teach, it is helpful to consider the goal/purpose of the lesson, content, activities, timing, materials, and how you will wrap-up the lesson. Consider the questions below to help plan the logistics of your first day and future sessions throughout the semester. These questions are also organized into a Preparing to Teach Template, which you find in the complementary activities or in its own pdf at the bottom of the page.

  • Goal or Purpose: What is the goal/purpose of the lesson, lab, seminar, tutorial etc. and how will I communicate this goal/purpose to students?
  • Content or Activity: What content will I be covering and what activities will I be facilitating (e.g, an experiment or small group discussions)?
  • Timing: How much time do I have for each activity?
  • Materials to Prepare or Access: What materials do I need to prepare or access in advance (e.g., a problem set on CourseLink, PowerPoint slides, or whiteboard markers)?
  • Wrap-Up: How will I wrap up the session (e.g., revisit the purpose/goal of the lesson, verbally summarize the lesson, or have students write down a key takeaway)? Are there any reminders I need to communicate to students (e.g., upcoming due dates for assignments)?

Here are a few additional questions you may consider as you plan your labs/tutorials/seminars etc. throughout the semester:

  • How will I introduce the content and activities?
  • How will I transition between topics and/or activities? Are there times when I can plan a short summary?
  •  What questions can I prepare in advance to prompt students’ thinking on a topic or to check if students understand a concept?
  • What possible questions or challenges may arise?


Lightbulb symbol for Preparing Your First DayNow it’s your turn! Check out the complementary activities where you can find a copy of the Preparing to Teach Template to plan out your first class (or for every time you teach throughout the semester).

File attachments

PDF icon Preparing to Teach Template_vF.pdf73.71 KB