I begin each of my high school classes with “bell ringers.” These work well for secondary students; they know what to expect and class begins orderly. I’ve used several types of bell ringers over the years, and I change them from class to class. Some classes respond better to different class openers.
Here are the most effective bell ringers I’ve used with secondary students.
- Quotes. I’ve written before about how using quotes allows me to set the tone of my classroom and encourage discussions. When I use quotes as bell ringers, I model analytical thinking for my students. Showing a quote at the start of class gives students to “wake up” and begin thinking. I can show them how I walk through an analysis and connect the quote to a bigger picture.
- TED talk. (Maybe only on Fridays?) I’ve recently started showing a few TED talks at the start of class. Because these take more time than a traditional bell ringer, I’ve only done it as a “surprise.” Students enjoy watching entertaining performances, but showing a TED talk at the start of every class won’t work. This upcoming semester, I’m considering showing one every Friday.
- Poem. Poetry is not my favorite subject to teach. I have used various poems as bell ringers to combat that. I read a poem at the start of class, and we applied poetical devices as we read. I kept a running tally of terms we covered and reviewed them at the end of the semester. This worked well because while I gathered poems, I encouraged students to bring them in as well. This helped build relationships because students were contributing to the curriculum.
- Task Cards. Most often, I begin classes with grammar lessons. Using task cards with grammar errors, I can gauge where our grammar lessons need to go. For instance, if I provide students with several writing errors and the majority of students are struggling with subject – verb agreement, I know that I need to review subjects and verbs, probably prepositional phrases (stuck between the subjects and verbs), and then agreement rules.
Plus? With task cards, I can have students move. When we cover basic writing errors, I have students move, dependent upon the task card they studied. For instance, I’ll have students with misplaced modifiers get into one section of the room, pronoun-antecedent problems get in another section, etc. Then we can discuss the commonalities between the errors, hopefully showing patterns. (Bonus: in the first ten minutes of class students have moved, making them more awake).
- Puzzles. Years ago, I had a set of puns that worked like a puzzle. Students had to think of the pun based on pictures. For example, one pun had a man in a business suit holding glue. He held a briefcase and very much looked like a salesman. After a bit of discussion, students figured he was selling glue – and he stuck to his word. (Insert eye rolling). These were fun and engaging, and began class quickly.
When deciding what bell ringers to use with your secondary students, consider the time available and the audience you have. I begin each class with a bell ringer, which allows me time to take attendance and talk to students individually. Students know what to expect and class begins in a calm, organized way. Bell ringers truly work for high school students.