A strategy I often use is to have them share something about them during attendance. Instead of answering "HERE" or "PRESENT" when I call their name for attendance, I ask them a question "What is your favourite colour?" (primary) or "What is your favourite subject?" or "What song is on replay on you ipod right now?" (high school) then when their name is called they can answer. Usually it is a question that requires only a one word answer.
Another activity you could do as a warm-up to the morning is a short writing activity....
Tell students, "I'd like to know you better. Please write a half page (adjust based on grade level) for me on this topic":
This is a great way to have students focused on a quiet activity and allows you to get to know them a bit better. This is also a nice way to have a few moments to get acquainted with the room, day plan, and so on. You can circulate and read some of the responses as they write, or read them during recess or when they are working on another activity.
- If I could do anything for one day, it would be . . .
- If I won a million dollars, I would . . .
- The best time I ever had was . . .
- What I like most in a friend is . . .
- I would like to be an educated/uneducated person because . . .
- What worries me most in the world is . . .
- In my spare time I like to . . .
Asking if anyone wants to share what they wrote is a nice activity also. Leave the writing for their regular teacher to enjoy also!