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Tips for Using Bell Ringers in Your Science Class

Bell ringers are one of my all time favorite ways to start each class period! Not only are they a great way to get students thinking about science in the first few minutes of class, I find them to be an excellent classroom management strategy. (If you’ve ever had thirty middle school students in your room with nothing to do, you can probably imagine how a little bit of bell work is an easy way to cut down on the pre-teen chaos.) If you are interested incorporating bell ringer activities into your daily class schedule, here are my best tips for using bell ringers in your science class.

What are bell ringers?

Bell ringer activities are short and engaging tasks that students complete first thing at the beginning of your class time. They are typically quick activities that last anywhere from five to ten minutes, and can be completed independently. Some science bell ringers may be used to review content covered in a previous lesson, while others introduce a new concept that will be covered later in the lesson plan.

A bell ringer activity shouldn’t just be busy work. The purpose of these science starters is to get students thinking critically. They also help in reviewing important concepts, or drawing on prior knowledge to make predictions about new concepts.

Let’s talk practicals!

There truly isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to using bell work in your science classroom. There are many different ways you can structure bell work within your own classroom. They come in a variety of formats, topics, and structures. The goal is to pick class starters that are simple for you as the teacher to organize and grab the attention of your students.

Where to do bell ringers?

Like I mentioned before, you’ve got several options when it comes to collecting bell work. Personally, I’m always a fan of fewer loose pieces of paper that I need to collect each day. Let’s face it, that’s overwhelming for me as a teacher and my students aren’t likely to keep track of five separate papers each week. Here are some other options I find useful:

  • Daily Questions on Google Classroom – I recommend making each science starter due ten minutes after class begins to keep students on task.
  • Interactive Notebook – These are a great way for your daily bell work to become part of your students’ notes they can return to for reference. These could be digital notebooks or good ole’ fashioned paper and pencil.
  • Weekly Google Doc – Have students record their work for the week on a Google doc that can be submitted at the end of the week.
  • Weekly Record Sheet – This paper would be used each day for students to keep a record of their bell work. Here are a few templates you may like.

What activities should be used for bell work?

There are many different kinds of activities that can be used as great bell ringers. Many teachers find the “Question of the Day” format to be helpful. If you’re looking for a good variety of questions to use as bell ringer activities, ACT passages and questions make great science prompts. I’ve also found activities that review important vocabulary words or get students practicing data interpretation and analysis to be great class warm ups.

If you are looking for some tried and true bell work for your middle school or high school science classroom, I’ve created several resources designed to spark discussion, reflection, and improve scientific literacy. Each of these resources includes a PDF print version of the daily bell work and a Google Slides version that can be used presentation style or posted on Google Classroom. I invite you to check them out and see what a difference these activities can make in your daily lesson plans!

Looking for more? Click here to see additional science warm up bundles!

Should you grade bell work?

As a general rule, I don’t grade bell ringers for correctness. Since the purpose of this work is collect instant feedback about student comprehension and retention of the material, and occasionally focuses on new (or relatively new) concepts, grading for accuracy doesn’t align with the primary goal of bell work.

(That being said, I will collect work or do checks for completion to keep students working hard on their warm up activities.)

Instead of grading for accuracy, you may try:

  • Using bell work as samples of student engagement/responsibility during parent meetings.
  • “Trade and Grade” with a partner.
  • Give a quiz every week (or every other week) in which students can use bell work to assist them on the quiz.
  • Giving stamps or stickers as a reward for students are on task during bell work time (and to remind yourself which students did authentic work rather than sharing answers with a friend.)
  • Using a QR code to share answers if you’d like students to get their own feedback.

My Favorite Bell Ringer “Tools”

One of my best tips for using bell ringers in your science class is to use the tools! Because we teach in the digital age, there is a limitless amount of resources available to support our instruction! When it comes to creating effective bell work, I use many different digital tools to enhance the bell ringer activities or to add some variety to our daily classwork. Here are a few of my favorite bell ringer resources:

  • Formative.com
  • Quizlet.com (great for vocabulary review)
  • Edpuzzle (great for introducing new ideas and concepts)
  • Legends of Learning (great for practicing or reviewing knowledge and skills)
  • Common Lit (great for making real life connections)
  • Blooket (great for reviewing)
  • Google Forms (creates a Google sheet of student responses that is easy to grade)
  • Plickers (uses unique QR codes as a fun formative assessment)
  • Pear Deck (compatible with Google Slides – allows you to see everyone’s work anonymously)

Regardless of the tools you choose to use as part of your daily warmups, just be sure to have a consistent method for recording and collecting student work. As long as the method of data collection is consistent (i.e digital notebooks, weekly question sheet, etc.) you will be able to switch up the ways in which the daily prompts are presented without needing to re-explain your bell ringer directions day after day.

Give these tips for using bell ringers in your science class a try! I’d love to hear what you think.

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