If you aren’t using bell ringers in your secondary ELA classroom – you should. I can’t say enough good things about what bell ringers have done for the routine and structure of my classroom. They do not require much upfront work and preparation once you decide the process you want for bell ringers. And there are so many bell ringers you can find ready-made (check out the end of this post for a couple of my favorites). Here are five reasons you should start your class with a bell ringer.
1. Bring Routine
A great benefit to starting class with a bell ringer is how it will bring routine to your day. Class can often start in chaos as students make their way in from the hall, continuing conversations, and shifting into a new subject. I’ll have students who are still amped from a P.E. class, students who just finished a math exam, and students who have snuck in late to the school day. Having a bell ringer ready at the start of each class means my students know what to expect when they come in. I help them shift their mindset to my class, and I tone down the chaos without having to do much of anything. This gives me those first few minutes of every class to do my other duties like attendance, changing papers and lessons for the new class, or sending on students who stayed behind from the previous class.
2. Set Class Tone
When we come in, we are ready to get to work. I expect that they get themselves ready to go for the lesson ahead, and I maintain that expectation throughout the lesson. I also use my bell ringers as a way to set the tone for class as well. In addition to an established routine, having a bell ringer ready sets the tone for class. You may choose grammar and vocabulary review as your go-to bell ringer, which is a different tone than if you start with journals daily. Maybe you will review terminology, or give pre-reading questions, or free write for three minutes. Whatever you decide, think about how students will be able to get started and what you want from them moving forward in class.
3. Create Class Culture
One of the reasons I love bell ringers is creating class culture. I want my students to have positive experiences in my class. I like to give students opportunities to express themselves with journal bell ringers and then invite them to share with partners, groups, or occasionally to the full class. It is a valuable opportunity to learn about student experiences and beliefs and needs. We can learn from each other and hopefully be more gracious and understanding as the year progresses. Even if you do not want to journal every day, taking some time weekly to allow students to share personal insights or free-write can go a long way in developing class culture.
4. Build Independence
When I create the routine of starting each class with a bell ringer, my students then learn independence. Having predictable expectations leaves little room for guessing. My students know that when the bell rings, they get seated, and begin their bell work. You may have them write in a designated space in a notebook, or pick up a paper from the front of the room, or use a digital resource to mark their participation. Small victories lead to big victories, and I’ve never regretted teaching my students to take care of their class routine themselves.
5. Quick Assessments
Another great benefit of using a bell ringer is they are a perfect opportunity for quick assessments. Need to check for understanding? Make it a bell ringer. Need to determine what they already know about a subject? Bell ringer. Need students to be accountable for specific information? Bell. Ringer. My goal is never to make a bell ringer “meaningless” although that doesn’t mean I “grade” every bell ringer. I select a couple a week to turn in, or have sometimes had students submit their work biweekly. This keeps students on their toes, and lessens the likelihood that they will blow it off.
I have a ton of great bell ringer activities you can find here. Some of my favorites are my Classroom Community Bell Ringers, and Growth Mindset Bell Ringers. What types of bell ringers do you utilize in your classroom? Have you seen benefits to your class routine and culture by implementing this routine?