Lois Lake Church, University of Connecticut, Quinnipiac University, Southern CT State U, and Charter Oak State College
On the first day of the semester, before we do a syllabus read-through, I pair students and ask them to interview each other to find the other's name, one point of contact (nothing so simple as "he's male and I'm female"--I ask them to dig for a commonality), and one distinction between them. After each student introduces her/his partner, s/he has to say the names of all students who were already introduced. I finish the introductions by reciting all the names (this impresses them). The name-reciting talk breaks the ice effectively--students are laughing at their struggles by the end of the introductions. If some say "I cheated--I wrote down the names," I tell them it's not cheating: they have good study skills.
I make a point of using their names at every opportunity, and of learning about them from the introductory letter they write me as their first homework assignment, so they understand that I see them as individuals who have something to teach me and their classmates.