Have students interview each other before introductions

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.