You know how middle and high school students can enter your class daily. It can get pretty crazy, and you can waste more than 5 minutes trying to start class. I’ve been there, but with bell ringer journals, it is not so hard to get back to a routine. Establishing a routine using bell ringer journals can be a classroom management game changer. They are a great way to start each class period in Google Classroom or on paper.
1- To Establish a Routine- From day 1, have students enter the classroom and begin their morning work. Set expectations by greeting them at the door and reminding them of the routine. Have it posted on the whiteboard or the Smartboard that they will take out their bell ringer and begin working. You can have the bell work projected as a prompt as well.
Ways to Assign Bell Ringer Journals
Some teachers print the bell ringers and have them in binders that remain in the classroom; some provide a digital option. We have the bell ringers in both a printable option and Google Slides versions. Be sure to continue the bell ringers for the entire year so that students know they are a part of the class.
2- Classroom Management– Once you get into a routine with your students, the behaviors at the beginning of the class that you don’t want will go away. Be sure to grade them periodically to show the students that they count toward a grade and that the writing prompts are essential to your class. You can collect them to grade or grade them in the binders when they aren’t in class.
3- Engagement: Bell ringer journals capture students’ attention when they enter the classroom, setting a positive tone for the lesson. They get the students thinking about your subject. Middle school and high school students often have difficulty transitioning from one class to another, and bell ringer journals are an excellent way to ease them into the next class. You can discuss the answers as a class if you want or even have students share their answers in a small group. How much time you want to devote to the bell ringer daily is up to you. Sometimes, it may fit perfectly with your lesson, and you can discuss the answer as a class for a long time!
4- Focusing on the Objective: Your bell ringer prompts should ideally focus on your day’s lesson objective. Say you are teaching students about email etiquette that day. You can start the lesson with a bell ringer prompt that asks them questions about how to write an email. Or it can include informational text for them to answer a question leading to the lesson.
5- Building Skills: We all know that students need practice with writing and reading at any grade level. Consistent journal writing helps students improve their communication, vocabulary, and grammar skills. Daily bell ringers include vocabulary that helps students improve their language and reading fluency. Reluctant writers often enjoy prompts that ask for their opinion, and many of the warm-ups can include their input, such as “would you rather” and “this or that” prompts. Including a word of the week is also a great way to sneak in important vocabulary that is either content or academic vocabulary which they need. Different prompts can meet different student’s learning needs and interests.
6- Administration Loves Them!– I mean, what more could they ask for? Your students are right to work as they enter the classroom, and they are preparing for the content you are about to teach that matches the standards!
7- Critical Thinking: Thought-provoking prompts encourage students to think critically, analyze information, and express their opinions. You can increase the rigor of bell ringers as the year progresses and students become more knowledgeable about the topic. You can also incorporate growth mindset bell ringers to help students work through their goals and aspirations. They don’t always have to be completely connected with the subject area that you are teaching. Some teachers teach an enrichment class in which these types of bell ringers can be used.
Bell Ringer Journals for Classroom Participation
8- Classroom Community: This is one of my favorite things about using warm-ups that I did not see coming. Sharing journal responses can create a sense of community, promoting discussion and understanding among peers. Some students really enjoy sharing their answers, and if you are not getting much response that way, have the students “turn and talk” about their responses. You can even switch up the groups to help them get to know one another.
9- Collect Data and Pre-Assess- Use them as a pre-assessment to understand what the students already know when they enter the classroom. You can monitor and adjust your lesson for the week accordingly. As a secondary teacher, you have to get creative to find out what your students already know, and collecting bell ringer journals can be a good idea to collect data. Use a prompt that is a review of the day before and see if their answers make sense. If not, you may need to review it! Exit tickets are another great way to assess their knowledge and collect informal data on learning.
10- Classwork Grades– Sometimes, it can be tough to gather enough grades for a marking period. Bell ringer journals can serve as a classwork grade, a participation grade, or both. Keep running answer keys to take some of the work off of your plate or grade often with a quick scan for doneness and correctness.
Check out our blog post on ways to use bell ringer journals in the classroom.