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.
Hi Noelle! I happened upon your blog from a post I saw on Pinterest and I feel like I’ve struck gold! You have the most amazing ideas for middle school! I’ve been an elementary teacher for 12 years and this year, have moved to the middle school. Needless to day, I’ve been in freak out mode, but your blog has been a godsend! I love your ideas and they make me feel a bit more confident in teaching 6th graders. I just wanted to thank you for your blog and ideas. I’m a follower for life, lol!
Noelle Pickering says
Hi Alisa! Thank you for your kind words! I am glad that you have found the blog helpful, that really is why I do all of this! Please feel free to email me with any questions. I love connecting with readers! Have a great year, you will love 6th graders. 🙂
Katie Estrada says
What is your view on not having a warm up at all.
I now only have 45 minutes to teach the same amount of content and another math teacher suggested getting rid of the warm up. I about fainted.
Am I crazy? Or do you think they are almost a requirement for 7th grade math.
Thanks any help you can offer would be great.
P.S. BTW I taught with you at AMS but went by my maiden name Cook.
Noelle Pickering says
Oh my goodness, Katie! What a small world!
I am with you, I think I would die without a warm up. However, I will say that when I had 45 minute classes, the warm up was pretty simple and straight to the point. Rarely, did we go into a lot of detail. Also, on days that we were doing activities or stations, the warm up was typically “have all your materials out on your desk and ready to go”. But, I would say that was a max of once a week…just so they didn’t get out of the routine.
I hope you have a great year!!! Keep in touch 🙂
How did you create your “Good Morning Beautiful Students” board. Is that a flip chart for a smart board or promethean board?
Noelle Pickering says
Hi Susan! Just a simple powerpoint slide with colored shapes and text boxes. 🙂
Noelle, I am such a fan of your blog (and TpT store =] ). I am a fan of bellringers as well. I was wondering how/where you have your classes record/keep up with their bellringers (and do you give credit for them)?
Noelle Pickering says
Thanks so much, Jordan! At first, I used a recording sheet and collected it each week. That became a headache because I would forget to copy the recording sheet, kids would be absent, etc.
The best thing I ever did was teach students on Monday to save two pages for their warm ups in their composition books. I would go around and stamp it as I checked homework, sometimes I would pass out our school incentives to students working when the bell rang. Occasionally, I would take a grade, but I really just wanted it to be more of a habit for students.
Lisa Cotter says
Do you ever go over/discuss warmups with students — would this be on a daily or weekly basis?
Noelle Pickering says
Hi Lisa! I tried to go over them everyday while it was fresh on students’ minds. I didn’t work out every single one for time sake. Another option is to assign students who have solved them to go to the board and show their work. Hope that helps!
Hi Noelle! I love your TpT store, starting in a new school with a new baby and your materials helped me with keeping up my sanity. One of your suggestions is to project the warm-up on the board. Do ask your students to copy it on their paper? I am planning to print all the bell work for the year. Put it in a three prong folder in a plastic sleeve. Trying to save trips to the work room and saving my number of copies. Thanks!
Tyne Brack says
Hi, Jenny! Congratulations on your new baby! Last year, I had a baby, so I totally understand trying to batch process some work upfront. I think the idea sounds great! I would suggest that you post or go over the first week the criteria that is expected for the warm up. And model some examples of what you expect. Maybe it is a word problem, and having students copy down the word problem is unnecessary, but they should write down relevant information, show a strategy, and box their answer. Best of luck this year! – Tyne