In this post, I talked about students not doing the reading and how I didn't want to infantalize my classes by giving quizzes. I got lots of great suggestions that made me do a little re-thinking, and in the last two classes, I gave quizzes. I'd actually warned the first class -- the teeth-pulling one -- that there would be a quiz. Despite this, the results were largely pathetic. But the results of the class period were much better. After the students completed the quiz, I collected it, looked all of the quizzes over, and returned them to the students after getting an idea of where they were. Then we arranged our chairs for a discussion and went over the possible answers (it was an amazingly open quiz -- name five major things that happened in what had been the Roman Empire between that emperor who legalized Christianity and the guy who won the battle of Lechfeld, for example). Most of them had little to go on from what was written down, but if one person knew something, someone else could add to it, and then someone else could come up with another related thing, and so on. So I was able to demonstrate to them that they knew more than they'd thought, AND that they all needed to study more.
The second class erupted in protest. And then a couple of them said, "but we're usually prepared -- you should make it a group quiz!" So I told them that, as long as we could get really good answers to all the questions, we could do that. So we got in a group, and they were all over it. And they ribbed each other about wrongish answers ("Dude! That's like a hundred years too late! What are you thinking??"). It was really fun.
Best thing is that I managed to review a ton of stuff I'd been trying to get to, clarified a lot of things people were having trouble with, and tied it up with a big overview ribbon! I think I may start doing this more often, and earlier.