5 Types of Bell Ringers to Incorporate into the Secondary ELA Classroom

5 Types of Bell Ringers to Incorporate into the Secondary ELA Classroom
Hi, there! Christina, The Daring English Teacher, here and I am sharing five different types of bell ringers middle school ELA and high school English teachers can incorporate in their secondary ELA classroom.

Whether you choose to call them bell ringers, do nows, bell work, or class starters, there is a lot to be said for the work your students do at the immediate start of class. Students thrive on routine, and though they may be a bit reluctant at first, students come to know what is expected of them when there are consistent classroom routines.

One of the most beneficial classroom routines I've used with my students year and year again is a do now activity. My students know that at the beginning of the class period, and preferably as close to the bell as possible, they are to have their do nows out, and they should be quietly working on whatever activity I've projected onto the board for them. And while some students might need a little more guidance and assistance into starting their bell work, it usually goes off without a hitch.

The daily do now activity provides me with several minutes at the start of class to take and enter attendance, reset my computer from the previous class, and handle any individual student questions that may arise. It's one of my go-to classroom routines that helps me keep my classroom in order.

During my earlier teaching years, I unsuccessfully implemented a bell ringer routine in the classroom. However, I found that I didn't hold the students accountable for their work, and thus, they were less apt to complete the work. This scenario quickly turned into more of a classroom management issue, and that's why I created this Free Bell Ringer Recording Sheet.
5 Types of Bell Ringers to Incorporate into the Secondary ELA Classroom

It's quite a simple idea. I wanted to hold students accountable each day, and yet, I didn't want to collect and grade their work every single day. I also didn't want students to slack off and then copy all of the work the day before it was due. For about eight years now, I've successfully used this bell ringer recording sheet in my classroom.

Every four weeks, I print out a new form that is double-sided for my students. Before I print the pages, however, I write the date in the date box and add in any essential school dates or holidays. Each day, students are responsible for completing the do now that is on the board. After I get my attendance entered into the computer system, I go around and individually stamp each student's sheet. Yes, this does take some time, but not nearly as much time as you might think. It only takes about 2-4 minutes to circulate throughout the room, depending on how many individual questions students have. I really cherish this time with my students because, even though it is only for a couple of seconds for each student, I can have some face time and individually connect with each student. If something seems off, I can ask a student how they are doing. If a student has an individual question for me, this provides them with the perfect opportunity to ask a question. You can read more about my bell-ringer routine in this blog post.

As to the particular types of bell-ringer activities, the possibilities are endless. Sometimes I like to keep the activities specific to the content that I am teaching, and sometimes I like to have the activity be more of a skill-based activity.

Here are 5 types of bell ringer activities that you can incorporate into your classroom this school year.

1. Thoughtful response

One way to begin the class period is with a thoughtful response. This comes in the form of a literature-inspired bell-ringer activity like my William Shakespeare Bell Ringers or as a thematic activity like my Growth Mindset Bell Ringers.

Often, I like to share a quote with my students and ask them to respond to a brief writing prompt. The quote is usually related (either content-wise or author-wise) to what we are currently studying. To keep things rigorous and academic, I like to ask questions that align with the three common core writing strands: argument, informational, and narrative.

After students have a moment to read the quote and respond, I like to open up the classroom floor for a quick discussion by having a few students share their responses aloud. If I've asked an argument writing prompt, this time can quickly turn into an impromptu classroom debate -which is always fun!
5 Types of Bell Ringers to Incorporate into the Secondary ELA Classroom

You can try out my FREE Classroom Community Bell Ringer resource. This resource includes a week of free bell-ringer activities to use in your classroom!

2. Sentence Combining

One way to get students thinking about syntax is to incorporate daily sentence combining bell ringers into your curriculum. The idea behind this type of bell ringer is to present students with a series of short, related simple sentences. The series should contain at least 4-5 sentences. As students come into the classroom, they read the sentences and combine them into 1-2 compound or complex sentences.

To add an extra challenging component, I like to have my students do this twice. They write their responses in two different ways -each time incorporating different sentence structures into their writing. By consistently completing this activity, students learn about syntax, and they learn how they can vary their sentence structure to deliver a message.
5 Types of Bell Ringers to Incorporate into the Secondary ELA Classroom

Once the students finish writing their sentences, I like to call on a couple of student volunteers to read their sentences (and the punctuation) aloud. Not only is this an excellent opportunity for students to hear other sentence structures, but it is a great time to throw in some punctuation practice. For some holiday-inspired fun, I also have Halloween-themed and Valentine's Day-themed sentence combining bell ringers!

3. Silent Reading

By far, one of the most calming and relaxing ways to start a class period is by implementing a silent reading bell-ringer activity. One of the best ways to do this is to start it at the beginning of the year. Also, you'll want to have highly-engaging, diverse books in your room (they can be from your library or on loan from the school library).

Whenever I start the class period with silent reading, I gently remind my students that they are reading for enjoyment. I tell them to give the book they selected a shot, and that if they don't like it, they can always put it back and try a new one. I emphasize that this should be enjoyable and that it is okay to keep trying new books until they find one that they like.

I also make it a point to read during this time as well. I even keep the book I'm currently reading on my whiteboard shelf for all of my students to see.

4. Ed Tech Accounts

On days when we use our Chromebooks in the classroom, one time-saving bell-ringer activity that I like to employ is having my students log in and work on an online assignment for the first five or ten minutes of class. Usually, my students have a weekly or monthly vocabulary and grammar assignment online, and this is one way that I make sure that they have class time to work in the assignment.

One of the reasons why this works is because the students get logged into their Chromebooks immediately. That way, when we transition to our lesson, the students are already logged into their accounts. Also, many of the online learning platforms provide teachers with tools to monitor student progress. With a couple of clicks of the mouse, teachers can see what students have completed during that time.
5 Types of Bell Ringers to Incorporate into the Secondary ELA Classroom

5. Test Prep

If you teach in a state that administers state testing, incorporating some test-prep during this time during the do now allows you to help prepare your students for the test without boring them with too much test prep at one time. I'll use this time to review commonly-tested vocabulary words, punctuation marks, or to review released state test prep questions.

When I review the questions with my students at the beginning of the class period, I only go over 2-3 questions at a time. I have the students answer the questions, and then call on students to first eliminate the wrong answer that stands out the most, and then to share the correct answer. It's not perfect, but it helps with test prep without taking up too much instructional time.

I surely hope that these five different types of bell ringers help bring you some variety, engagement, and rigor to the first five minutes of class!

Here are some more bell-ringer activities you can try in your classroom:
Writing Prompts for Building Skills and Stamina by Room 213
Middle and High School English Bell-Ringers by Presto Plans
English Reading and Writing Bell Ringer Exit Slips by Tracee Orman
Career Exploration Daily Writing Prompts by The Classroom Sparrow
Vocabulary of the Day by Secondary Sara

5 Types of Bell Ringers to Incorporate into the Secondary ELA Classroom

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