Last year, bell ringers featured prominently in my instruction for about a month. This year WILL be different. Right?
What Are These Bell Ringers of Which You Speak?
Most teachers will already know the term, but the explanation below is for those who might know it by another name. Please comment below if you know it by another name. I would be willing to adopt a new term, as I am not a fan of this one. I am, however, a fan of the idea, so please read on.
A bell ringer is an opening activity that students complete without assistance while teachers are transitioning from class to class. Teachers need time to take attendance, for example, so they fill that time with something that will keep the students productively occupied. Each minute is precious in live instruction, and teachers try to fill each minute with something pertinent to the curriculum.
Bell ringers in ELA could include reviewing the previous day’s instruction, vocabulary activities, grammar exercises, or mini-lessons on topics like theme. Last year, I used sample questions from the Keystone exams as bell ringers, vocabulary learning, and grammar exercises. I will do that again this year and use the rest of the instructional time to address more particular student needs and the curriculum. Diagnostics and benchmarks will tell me what those needs are.
Plan Your Bell Ringers
A Google Slides or PowerPoint presentation would be perfect for this. Create one slide for each bell ringer, share the slide within the conference, and use a projector. If all your students, no matter their location, join the conference, you do not need to project. (On a side note, teachers already in the classroom are finding that students cannot hear them over the HVAC blower and because of the mask they have to wear. They are asking all students to bring earbuds with them and join the conference, thereby eliminating this problem. It sounds odd, but I recommend you try it.)
Here is an example of a Google Slides bell ringer I used last year.
You could also use a service for vocabulary and grammar instruction There are numerous flashcard services available now. Students can work on vocabulary during the bell ringer using a link provided or by signing into your LMS (learning management system) classroom. Some services make grammar exercises fun. Well, as fun as grammar can be.
Another idea is to produce a video of yourself introducing the topic of today’s lesson. Students will get to see you without the mask. There is recording software available, free to teachers forever. Other software is low cost. Students would sign into the LMS, play the video using their earbuds, and then be ready to learn. At some point, I will edit this post to include an example of a video introduction.
Considering the rollercoaster ride we are going to be on most of this year, I am imploring myself to be consistent. A former supervisor of mine gave me sage advice: Make sure that everything you plan to do is sustainable. Therefore, the question I put to myself is, “Is this plan sustainable?” Since I lasted a month last year, can I last longer this year?
The next question I’m asking myself: “Is this going to be helpful?” Is the activity relevant, or just busywork? Reconsider assigning busy work at the beginning of class, as it might tire or bore the students. That does not bode well for the rest of the period.
When planning your bell ringer, be sure to plan something that is short, well-explained, and within the students’ ability to complete independently.
What Do You Think?
Please comment on the post. Thank you for reading!