Teaching

My Favorite Bell Ringer Prompts and Ideas

Disclaimer: I know bell ringers and exit tickets aren’t for everyone. 

I started my teaching career not using them and now they are part of my middle school and on-level high school routine (for time reasons I don’t use them in APUSH).

My first year teaching I wasn’t consistent with getting class going each day.  As the kids entered the room, I’d greet them, they’d share stories with me, some asked for college recommendation letters, they’d want to talk about current events, share a book recommendation, etc, and I engaged in those conversations.  That took a varying amount of time each day. While that was going on I’d take attendance, hand out papers, then start the lesson.  It was frequently hectic, but connections were being made, procedural items were getting done, and the lesson started.  However, with only 45 minute classes that year, valuable time was being lost.  I acknowledged that I needed a classroom procedures change so that class could start more consistently.

This is where bell ringers come in.  It took about a week for my kids to settle into the new normal, but it was worth it.  I rotated through different types of bell ringers so the kids didn’t get complacent and so that I wasn’t grading the same thing over and over.  When I taught a traditional “same 8 periods every day” schedule I collected THESE bell ringer recording sheets once a week as a participation grade.  When I moved and started teaching on an “every other day A/B block schedule” I collected them every other week and used them for participation.  Depending on what the teaching plan was that day, I sometimes used these as exit tickets.  If it was a test day they wrote “test day” in the answer spot for that day.

Regardless of what format the bell ringer took, the kids knew they had to complete it immediately upon entering class because once I finished taking attendance and passing out papers (which was when I also responded to specific student requests/concerns or had the quick conversation they needed before class started), the bell ringer was erased and class started.

Depending on the class and what was going on in their lives, I usually reserved the last 3-4 minutes for the “extra” stuff they used to talk about before class started.  Since we were starting class so much faster, we usually had that time to spare and I didn’t feel rushed to get through all the material for the day.  

These are a few of my go-to bell ringer methods and resources (in no particular order).

1.  Quick Recap—this is a factual recall sort of bell ringer such as:
—Identify one area where Reconstruction fell short and one success of Reconstruction.
—Explain the difference between the MAIN-A causes of WWI
—List the first 5 presidents in chronological order, and then in order of most to
least successful (your opinion).
—What was the Berlin Wall and why was it built?

2.  Image ID—I project an image (picture, painting, or political cartoon) and my students write down a description of what they see, how it connects to the topic we are studying, and a creative, but historically responsible caption for it.

3.  Ask Me—This is a student favorite.  I have them write a question they have….ANY question.  This is when some of my more reserved/shyer students ask about how to handle a difficult social situation they are in, or the “know-it-all” students asks about something they didn’t understand in class but didn’t want to admit to the whole class, and sometimes, if it’s been that kind of week, I get the “why do you only use blue pens” type of question.

4.  Brain Dump—I put a word or phrase related to the topic at hand on the board and they write everything they can remember about it and how it relates to what we are studying.  As an example, if the phrase was “Midnight Judges” a student might (at minimum) write, “John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Election of 1800, Federalists vs. Democratic-Republicans, Marbury vs. Madison.  Midnight Judges relates to our topic of the Early American Republic because it is an example of political party tension.  Adams tried appointing as many Federalist leaning judges to newly established judgeships as possible before Jefferson was sworn in because he worried that Jefferson would reverse many of Adams’ Federalist policies as possible.  It also relates to how the Constitution was tested in our early history.”

5.  On This Day—I have a few different go-to sites for “on this day” type blurbs/videos.  To analyze the information about the significant historical event from any given day, I usually pick one of 3 questions from THIS list (that’s also where the sites are linked) and my students choose which one they respond to. 

6.  Skills Practice—for this, I use this amazing resource found HERE (she has one for each half of US History).  I project the slide that either directly correlates to our topic of study or is a review for a topic we finished in the previous weeks, and the students read/examine the primary source and answer the accompanying question.  When I taught Geography, I used THIS resource in a similar way.

I’d love to hear about your go-to bell ringer/exit tickets ideas, leave a comment below if you want to share!

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