What is a Bell Ringer and Why You Should Use Them

My first year of teaching I thought I knew what I was doing. I didn’t have to start my class immediately with a warm up question. The students would just naturally sit quietly while I took attendance and wait for instructions. Right? WRONG. WAY WRONG.

That first year was a year of learning, for me mostly. I’m sure my students learned something, at least I hope they did. One of my main takeaways was that if they start off the class doing whatever they want, guess what, they will continue the class doing whatever they want.

A couple of months into the year I remembered the magical bell ringers. I was desperate, so I tried them. My year got better but it wasn’t until the next year when I started out on day one with bell ringers that I saw the difference.

What is a Bell Ringer?

A bell ringer is just that, something your students can work on while you are taking care of a few things like attendance. They are not busy work like crossword puzzles or word searches. They are tied to your lesson. Maybe it is a question about what was taught yesterday as a reminder. Maybe it is about today’s lesson to see what they already know.

Why should I use Bell Ringers?

Having something available for your students to work on immediately whether it is the first day of school or the last, will not only prepare your students for the day’s lesson but also give you time to take attendance and take care of your beginning of class procedures.

Students will:

Be engaged from the moment they sit down.
This is a very important step in maintaining control of your class. If the students know they will have to immediately begin work, they will be prepared to work throughout the entire class.

Learn valuable problem solving skills while they are working on their own.
Many students will ask you a question before trying to figure it out themselves. If they are required to work independently when they start class, they will learn how to problem solve on their own.

Incorporate reading into all subject areas.
I heard all too often ‘Why are we reading, this is science.’ You know how important reading is, make sure your students know as well. Many of my bell ringers had accompanying pages from the text they had to read to help them figure out the answer.

Types of Bell Ringers

Question
What are some important ideas that western civilization has obtained from the Greeks? How do you conjugate the verb gustar? What is the product of 34 and 24?

Problem solving
What is the probability of offspring in the following genetic cross TT x Tt where tall plants are dominant and short plants are recessive? Calculate the following: 345 x 22.

Multiple choice/true false
George Washington was a Colonel as well as a president. True/False
The value of 5 in the number 758.44 is:
A. 5 tenths
B. 5 ones
C. 5 tens
D. 5 hundreds

Read and respond
After reading a short story or article you can ask questions like: What do you think happened just before your story started? What point of view is your book written in? How do you know?

Opinion based questions to start a discussion
Why do you think Charles Darwin studied finches? What do you think causes the flu?

Picture based

Give a qualitative and quantitative observation about this image.
There are many ways to start a class. Having the students work on something pertaining to your lesson keeps them engaged the entire time helping them understand that every single minute of class is valuable.

Click Here for one week of Scientific Method Bell Ringers