Settle Students with Bell Ringers

I'm joining the Secondary Smorgasbord FB group this month to blog about bell ringers.  Whether you call them bell ringers, warm-ups, or something else…. I can’t imagine teaching without them!  Here’s why I love them:

1.  Students get focused immediately, and the warm-ups set expectations.  Students know that when they enter my classroom, they have something to do right away. They know where to find necessary handouts, and they have a section in their binders for them.  It also helps cut down on socializing and chatter at the start of class.  

2.  They create routines.   My students know that as soon as they enter class they should start a given activity depending on the day of the week.  Typically, I start the week with journal writing.  On two other days, I start with Silent Sustained Reading.  On Wednesdays I have students complete SAT warm-ups, and on Fridays I usually have an editing activity.  By having planned warm-ups for each day of the week, it helps me ensure that I will cover a variety of topics and skills throughout the semester.

I have a classroom library to help students prepare for SSR.

3.  They’re a great management tool.  In our school, teachers are expected to take attendance on the computer at the beginning of each class.  By having students work on a bell ringer activity, it gives me a moment to take care of this task.  Depending on the activity, it’s also a great time for me to meet with a student individually or to provide assistance. 

4.  Warm ups split a 90 minute block into manageable learning chunks.  Research shows that the human attention span is limited, so I need to divide my class periods into several short activities.  My warm-ups range from 5 – 15 minutes depending on the activity.  Often, I can link the warm-up to a standard or topic that will be explored further in class.  For instance, I choose journal topics that are related to the day’s lesson.

5.  They don’t have to be graded.  I set the expectation that warm-ups must be completed but I do not always collect them.  This gives students an opportunity to practice their learning without feeling threatened. This works especially well for SAT warm ups, which are often intimidating to students.  We always take a few minutes to discuss answers in whole-class discussion, and students know they may be asked to share answers, but they also know it’s okay for them to make mistakes. 

Poetry Bell Ringers American Poets
Poetry Bell Ringers British Poets

This year I plan to use my poetry bell ringers in my Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition course.  Students need to be able to read, analyze, and write about poetry on the AP exam quickly.  By completing these bell ringers weekly, my students will have lots of practice with these skills and exposure to numerous classic poems.  If you’re interested in trying some of these out, click on the images.



7 comments

  1. Love number 4 - I teach in blocks, too, and it's great to use the warm-ups to transition between topics or activities. Thank you for the great ideas.

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    1. Thanks, Doc Running! I really like 90 minute blocks and there has been discussion of returning to a 7 period day. I hope not!

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  2. I was so happy to see Sustained Silent Reading in your Bell Ringer schedule. Most school districts have eliminated this from curriculum maps.

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    1. SSR has been discouraged in my school system recently, too. However, after participating in a PLC where we read books from Kelly Gallagher and Donalyn Miller, I feel like I can use the research to defend my choice to continue SSR.

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  3. Routine and high expectations is so important for students. It looks like your bell work does just that!

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  4. I, too, am a huge fan of warm ups...and the way that you conduct warm ups in your classroom sounds amazing! Off to check out your Poetry Warm Ups now!

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  5. Great to see such an impressive array of options in the links! It's so true that students need the routine of knowing that they are going to have to do something at the beginning of class, but it's also awesome to switch up the tasks so that there is some curiosity and surprise generated! Nice post!

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