When students are absent, place one of these "We Missed You" pages at their desk. Each time you hand out a new assignments, attach it to the sheet with directions. At the end of the day, you have a form, and all of the work for when your student returns.
Student information sheets are great tools to get to know your students and their history/family life. I will definitely be sending a worksheet similar to this home with my future students, because the more you know about them, the better you can help them to succeed.
Snowball Fight...kids write 3 things about themselves on a sheet of white paper. They do not write their names on the paper. Wad it up and on your command, have a "snowball" (or baseball) fight. At the end of 1 minute, each student grabs the nearest snowball and tries to guess who wrote it. Would be great at the beginning of the year!