My new section of intro to international relations starts tonight.  Its an eight week course that meets once a week for hour hours.  Everything is prepped–syllabus printed, website set up, lectures ready to go.  Class starts in half an hour, and I can’t decide how I want to start things off.

There are two options: the first, my standard opener, is a discussion about how international events have had an impact on their day.  Students tend to struggle to come up with an answer at first, but as the discussion continues they struggle, by the end, to come up with anything that was NOT affected by international relations.  Its a nice way to create buy-in for the course, even for non-majors, and lets me start to learn their names.  After the discussion we do introductions and then review the syllabus, and then start the first lesson of the evening.

The second option is to use Victor’s Hobbes game.  It works really well as an icebreaker (they have to introduce themselves before engaging in combat) and makes the first experience in the class a fun one, thus also creating buy in.

The challenge isn’t which to use, but rather the timing.  Which is better as an opener with a new class?  We don’t really talk about realism until next week, so is the Hobbes game better saved until then?  If I do it tonight, should i use it as an opener, or later in the evening when they might be flagging?

Of course, my concerns about timing may be completing groundless: I doubt that the choice of when to do it–as an opener, before break, or a closing exercise–really matters that much in terms of the impact it has on the students.

…and now I want to test to see if it does have an impact.  Project for next  year’s TLC?