One of the things I like to do in my writing classes is have the students start each day with writing. I usually assign a topic, but say they can write about other things if they wish. Then I set the timer on my phone and let them write for four minutes.
This exercise does several very helpful things. These are in no particular order.
1. For this generation, who are unused to handwriting, it helps them to build physical muscles for intense writing–which is required during the final exam.
2. It encourages students to arrive on time.
3. It gives them an opportunity, albeit in short bursts, to reflect on their lives at college.
4. It lets me continue to access their writing. (I don’t always attempt to do this, but it does let me know if students are able to consistently write.)
5. It gives a daily grade that encourages attendance.
6. It starts class out with the focus for the class.
7. Late students are far less disruptive, as they attempt to get enough writing done to qualify for the daily grade.
I keep these together in a folder and about once a week I go through them all putting them in alphabetical order and then recording the grades.
At the end of the semester, I hand all the papers back to the individual students. I encourage them to hold on to them, to give them to a parent or put them in the attic (or some equivalent), explaining that they are a small “slice of life” picture that will help remind them of their freshman year at college in some distant future, which is another benefit.