Before you begin teaching, help students identify something in their experience to which they can connect the material you intend to present. In eduspeak, this is called activating the knowledge base. The knowledge could be facts, attitudes, experiences, or assumptions.
Informal writing provides a good way to get all students involved in activating their knowledge.
For example, before you introduce The Hobbit, you could have students write for 1-2 minutes on what they remember about the setting of Bridge to Terabithia to get them thinking about the importance of setting.
Or you might have students write for 1 minute about what they found was the hardest grammar rule to apply in last night’s homework.
Having everyone write lets all students demonstrate to themselves that they know something relevant to what is to be taught. Studies show students who write prior to class discussion are more likely to participate in oral discussion.