I was teaching at the Art Institute of New York City in the fall of 2010, and I had one Type 1 class which was struggling mightily, about to fail en masse. Luckily, I discovered most of them had been culinary students in the school’s earlier incarnation. I asked them to bring in a letter of their choice, as long as they made it themselves out of something sweet. The results were wildly varied in terms of edibility, but their collective enthusiasm and level of dialogue skyrocketed for the rest of the term. Of course, this is technically edible lettering, but at least I got their blood pumping!
It opened my eyes and I make a point of interviewing my classes on the first day to look for clues of their prior knowledge. It keeps me on my toes, giving me a chance to enliven the material all over again.