Successfully getting through attendance can set a positive tone for the rest of the day/period with your class. For the younger grades, it can be as simple as following as closely as possible the routine the regular classroom teacher does to keep things consistent and the change-up smooth for the little ones. Asking students to help you out is a good idea too because then you get many eager helpers; young students have such pride in their classroom and love to show new people the lay of the land.
For older grades, things can get a little more complicated. You could ask a student to take attendance for you, but saying the names out loud is helpful when trying to keep a handle of the classroom situation, or if you need to leave a note (positive or negative) about a particular student for the regular classroom teacher.
You could also try having students sign in on a sheet of paper, passing it down row by row, and then reconfirming it with the attendance sheet. This works well if the regular teacher did not leave a seating chart. You may run into the issue of students taking for.eh.ver to pass the sheet around, or signing in their friends who are skipping.
On that note, pay extra attention when you’re taking attendance. Look up and see each student who is saying “here” or “present.” By doing this, you will avoid accidentally marking absent those students who are very quiet, or marking present a student who is absent (either mis-hearing something in a loud room, or someone saying “present” for themselves and their skipping friend).
Sometimes students think they’re incredibly clever and will answer for each other’s names. This isn’t a huge problem, but it is quite annoying. You can typically tell students are fibbing about their names if they answer “present” as if they’re trying to hold in laughter about the world’s most hilarious joke. Seriously. In all my years, I’ve seen this done a number of times and never has it been done well. Kids aren’t subtle.
A good trick to keep in mind is to do attendance by last name. Tell them the machine cut off their first names (shh, it’ll be a lie). Students have to pay closer attention to what you’re saying, and when you’ve called on them, you can ask them to repeat their first name for you. This is really helpful when trying to remember names.
One super important thing to know is having an understanding of the cultural background of the student population and, as a result, how to pronounce names. One of areas I go to has a very high population of Sri Lankan students (lo-o-o-ong names, but spelled very phonetically). Another area has a lot of Dutch and Swiss students (lots of Js that aren’t pronounced as Js). Not only are students appreciative when you can pronounce their names correctly, but the rest of the class tends to be impressed that you can say the tricky names; anything to get them on your side, amirite?
And finally, be honest and candid with the students. I tend to open the class with the honest statement of “I know you guys are going to be chatting all class and not getting as much work done today as you normally would, but asking for five minutes of quiet and attention isn’t asking a lot, right?” And they would have to admit that I was right, because five minutes really isn’t asking much. Anything to make life easier, amirite?