Lake Mathison, Rutgers University
The most well-crafted, engaging, comprehensive syllabus on the planet isn't of much use if the students never read it. Putting a contract at the end might help, but it's too easy to just sign without actually reading (like we all click "Accept" on the "Terms and Conditions" page of a download). Rather than a monotone recitation of something they all could (but won't) read on their own time, turn key syllabus points into a game of Jeopardy ("answer in the form of a question" optional). Divide the class into teams and give them a time limit to confer (or look up the answer). This helps break the ice and satisfies the modern student's craving for competition and gaming. More importantly, having the students comb through the syllabus in search of information makes them more likely to remember where to find it in the future. This idea could also be expanded to include important resources contained in the course website, if there is one.
There are free programs and templates online for designing Jeopardy games, or go old-school and write the grid on the chalkboard.