Ideas for Bell Ringers

Make that first five minutes work for you and your learners.

Photo by Luís Perdigão on Unsplash

In this post, I will share my thoughts on bell ringers for this year.

Any middle or high school teacher knows that the first five minutes of class can quickly go by without any learning going on. Students need to use the restroom, go to their locker, or talk to you about something. Suddenly, you notice that most of the classroom is staring at you because they have nothing to do.

While bell ringers are a great way to fill that time, my experience has been that I can’t keep up with them. I create, say, 30, and then I think, “I’ll create more during prep; I know what I’m doing now.” So, instead of doing that, I’m going to push myself to create many more, and I hope you’ll come along with me.

Step 1: Think about your curricular strands.

For each content area, there are usually several strands that categorize the standards students are expected to master. For English Language Arts, they are:

  • Reading Literature
  • Reading Informational Text
  • Writing
  • Speaking and Listening
  • Language

To that list, I would add 21st Century Skills and College and Career Readiness.

With that list in mind, contemplate some short tasks you could display that would take 5–10 minutes.

  • Reading Literature
  • Annotate a short poem
  • Write 50 words on a question about a literary device
  • Write 250 words about your favorite book
  • Reading Informational Text
  • Summarize a news article provided to you
  • Write 250 words about what you learned in history, science, or math yesterday
  • (Yes, I’m coming up with these in real time)
  • Writing
  • Write a short poem
  • Create a setting / plot / character for a short story about ____.
  • Write about the challenges you face when trying to write.
  • Speaking and Listening
  • Discuss: What is active listening?
  • Discuss: How does one overcome nervousness when speaking in public?
  • Language
  • Edit the passage for clarity
  • Combine the sentences

Step 2: Determine what kind of bell ringers you want to do that will work for each class you have.

There are several types to choose from. I don’t know if any of these are “official” types; these are just tasks I’ve brainstormed.

  • 250 Words (later in the year, increase it until you are requesting 500)
  • Image prompts
  • One-word prompts, like the All Souls’ 5th essay, which they no longer do when choosing fellows, but it’s still an interesting concept
  • Short-poem annotation
  • Short-poem analysis (this is good to try about 30 days in)
  • Breakout Bell Ringer (during COVID, we had to use breakout rooms in virtual classes, so I would use the same concept for in-person learning, but have them turn their desks to collaborate and keep the name, because I think it’s cool)
  • Grammar challenges
  • Today’s Wordle
  • The New Yorker’s caption challenge

Step 3: Start creating

I recommend presentation software for this part of the process (e.g., PowerPoint or Google Slides). Choose a theme or create one, consider the format of the slide, and if you like what you come up with, duplicate the slide and change the information.

Most importantly, have fun!

Thank you for reading!

Read this post and more on my Typeshare Social Blog

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