Bell ringers, warm ups, or do firsts — whatever you or your school might call them, they all serve the same purpose: to get students working at the start of class. This helps communicate to students that every single minute of class time is valuable. I have found that when the first five minutes of class run smoothly, the rest of class time will run smoothly (and I can actually take attendance!). Make your life easier and have a plan for the first five minutes of class with these 6 ideas for bell ringers.
6 IDEAS FOR Bell RingerS
Skill Drills + NUMBER SENSE FLUENCY
The length of a bell ringer caters perfectly for math fact drills. Think multiplication facts, division facts, fraction-decimal-percent conversions, geometry formulas, and other skills that will strengthen students’ automaticity in math. Why does it work? Students can feel successful completing problems that they already know how to do and can do quickly. Skill drills make it near impossible for students to sit there blankly or complain that they don’t get it. Set a timer, tell students to try to beat that time, and watch them go to work. I usually use skill drills every day for the first 4-6 weeks of school. While practicing number operations is valuable, it can be even more impactful when a quick discussion of strategies takes place. Our Number Sense Starters provide discussion questions for each slide to prompt student thinking. The goal is to facilitate a quick discussion where students are able to articulate their thinking process.
Some of the best teachers don’t require “review days”. Why? Because they are reviewing every day by making it a part of their routine. I hope to reach that status soon, but in the meantime, I use bell ringer time to practice previously taught skills. I have found this to be most successful by working on the same content for an entire week. Due to the repetitive nature of the same skill for 5 straight days, students at varying levels have several opportunities to relearn or practice the material.
For example, in my 6th grade classroom, I teach order of operations, prime factorization, greatest common factor, and integer operations in our first unit. While we are in the midst of unit two, I would spiral in at least one order of operations problem for a whole week on the warm ups. The next week, students would solve a prime factorization problem in the same manner. Monday and Tuesday, I might go over the skill to provide a refresh for my struggling students. By Wednesday, I would have a higher level student teach the class how to solve the problem. At the end of the week, most students can practice the skill correctly and independently. These math warm ups are easy to implement, ready to print, and aligned to CCSS or TEKS. They include a paper version for the student, a daily slide for your projector, and a standards guide.
Logging Onto Tech
Are you amazed at how long it takes students to grab a computer, log in, and get started on an online assignment? Yes, me too! If you plan on using technology for any part of your lesson, you can make logging in their bell ringer. While it might not seem as purposeful, it still has to get done. If you don’t want a huge group at your Chromecart, I would stand at the door and only let students into class as space around the Chromecart opens up. Then I would challenge each class period to beat the previous class period’s log in time.. Students loved the challenge and their competitive nature made logging in take only a couple of minutes. Teacher win.
Previewing material helps many different types of learners and there is literally no better time to preview than the very beginning of class. Because students should be completing the warm up with little assistance, this should be the type of skills that students have practiced before, but additional steps are going to be required to complete the objective for that day. For example, on a day when students are going to be simplifying fractions, the warm up might be listing factor pairs of a number or finding the greatest common factor of two numbers. I have found that incorporating vocabulary can be another way to preview material through bell ringers.
When I was in 8th grade, my Algebra teacher had an area on her board where students could write down problem numbers they had trouble with from the previous night’s homework. Sometimes Ms. Eckles would not go over any of the problems and jumped straight into the lesson. Other times she reviewed many, many problems. I don’t do this myself, but it did seem to work. We were engaged because we wanted a good homework grade, and since classes were only 40 minutes, it combined the warm up and the homework check. If I could call this teacher up right now, I would ask her when she took attendance. (She was probably like me and forgot). This is how Noelle grades homework.
Error analysis allows students to think critically and reflect on mistakes. It promotes a culture that allows students to feel okay making mistakes because they are then able to learn from those mistakes. If I see a common error on an assessment or homework, I will use a student example or recreate the error myself, and ask students to work out the problem on their own, identifying where the mistake happened. Positive culture idea: have students correct the mistake of a celebrity. Example: Miley Cyrus was working with Ms. Brack on adding fractions. Did she solve this problem correctly? If not, explain to Miley how to fix her mistake.
Editor’s Note: We have been publishing content for the Maneuvering the Middle blog for over 6 years! This post was originally published in June of 2016 and has been revamped for accuracy and relevancy.