We all know the chaos that begins when we hear the morning bell. Students rush into the classroom in a flurry of backpacks, lunchboxes, coats, and papers. It can be loud and our short peaceful prep time before school comes to an abrupt end. But the beginning of the school day doesn’t have to be all chaos. Que bell ringers.
Bell ringers are a classroom game-changer for so many reasons. By assigning the journal at the start of class, students will jump start their learning. It will also provide an immediate calm to classroom chaos, help reduce student stress and uncertainty, and help maintain smooth transitions. All at the same time, giving you, the teacher, the gift of time to get handouts ready, prepare tech, catch up with students who were absent or give you that small breather from the morning rush at home.
What Are Bell Ringers?
Bell ringers are a procedure that you set in place at the beginning of the year for students. They are specific learning activities that students know to start with after putting away their things and getting to their seats. Bell ringers come in all shapes and sizes and are synonymously called morning work. Teachers use bell ringers for many different reasons and subjects. I love to have my littles doing bell ringer journals. With these journals they have a specific notebook that is dedicated just for their morning bell ringer. They also have a specific prompt that they answer each day. I have found, just like most other teachers, that bell ringers are the perfect way for my littles and I to start the day.
How to Set up a Bell Ringer
1. Establish a Routine
Just like with any other procedure in the classroom, bell ringers need to be a clear and consistent routine. While starting at the beginning of the year is ideal, we can implement new procedures any time we need to! Set up clear expectations for your students and show good examples. It can also be fun to show a bad example and have students reteach you what was done wrong. Praise them and remind them of their new routine for the first few weeks as it becomes a habit. Then before you know it, your bell ringer will become second nature to your students and to you!
2. Keep them short, simple, and achievable
One of the great benefits of bell ringers is helping students to shift their brains into learning mode. The worst thing we can do is give them bell ringers that are challenging or difficult! We want our students to feel successful right from the beginning of their day. By keeping our bell ringers short, simple, and achievable, we are setting our littles up for success right off the bat. Also, we already have enough to do in our day! We don’t need anything to complicate our lesson planning. By keeping our bell ringers short and simple we are doing a great favor to both ourselves and our students.
3. Don’t Grade Them
Again, one of the great purposes of our bell ringers is to set our students up for success. By not grading our bell ringers, we take the pressure off of our students right from the beginning. Knowing their bell ringer journals aren’t graded allows students to transition into their school brain without any added stress. We also don’t need more to grade! It’s a win-win all around.
4. Use as Formative Assessments
While bell ringers aren’t graded, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t worthwhile. They are an excellent tool for formative assessment. You can use them to see what students remember from previous lessons. They can also help you to be more prepared for the day and what you may need to retouch on before your next lesson. I love to use my bell ringer formative assessments to help me prepare for small group instruction to help students who are behind.
5. Change Them Up
Just as important as keeping our bell ringers simple, is changing them up. Set up a routine where your bell ringers aren’t the same thing each day. This can lead to boredom in the students and could easily have your procedure falling apart. With my bell ringer journals, they are structured as mindset Monday, Tech Tuesday, Wordy Wednesday, Picture it Thursday, Figure it out Friday and last list three things you learned this week. This keeps my littles engaged each day while still keeping a consistent routine that is simple and achievable. My students love the predictability and the variety of their journals. If you want a simple and easy way to start bell ringers today you can check out my bell ringer journals in my TPT shop.
Benefits of Bell Ringers
Many of the benefits of bell ringers are mentioned throughout the blog. As you begin implementing bell ringers, you will find even more benefits for yourself. As a last word of advice, make sure that your bell ringers are more than just busy work. While the procedure is part of the magic, we need to make sure we use every minute as wisely as we can. We already have so little. No matter what you choose to do as your bell ringers, make sure that you have a clear purpose for your littles and that it is worth those few precious minutes you have students working on them. I promise that bell ringers will be a total game changer for you as you implement them in your classroom! Find what works best for you and your students and run with it! No need to wait until next year! Find the magic of bell ringer journals today. You’ll be converted in no time!