Bell-Ringer Activities for English Teachers

Instructor: Derek Hughes

Derek has a Masters of Science degree in Teaching, Learning & Curriculum.

A bell-ringer activity is a good way to get students settled into class before you begin teaching. This lesson will provide some activities you can use in your English classroom.

Bell-Ringers Defined

The beginning of a new class period can be a hectic time for everyone involved. Bell-ringers are short activities students can do as they enter the classroom to get them settled in and ready to work. This lesson will detail some bell-ringers a veteran English teacher uses in her classroom that you can adjust and use in your own class.

English Bell-Ringers

Mrs. Patil teaches 11th grade English at her local high school. She has been teaching high school English for 15 years and has found that several short activities, or bell-ringers, work wonders for helping students get settled in at the beginning of a class period. She uses these activities almost every day and finds that it makes her students more productive throughout the class.

1.) Journal Writing

One of Mrs. Patil's go-to activities is journal writing. Each of her students, at the beginning of the year, is given a copybook that they only use for journal writing. They are told to expect to write a lot in this journal and that Mrs. Patil will be checking it every few weeks to ensure that students are doing their required work.

When she uses journal writing as a bell-ringer, Mrs. Patil usually writes a short prompt up on the board. These can be simple questions such as 'What did you do over the weekend?' or more specific topics related to something the class is working on. Journal writing works great as a bell-ringer because it requires students to work quietly and think about the topic at hand.

One thing Mrs. Patil keeps in mind when using journal writing is that some students might want to write personal or private things. In this case, Mrs. Patil tells them to simply mark which pages shouldn't be read closely. These pages are instead checked for completeness, not content.

2.) Newspaper Word Search

In her English class, Mrs. Patil places a lot of emphasis on learning new vocabulary words. Therefore, one of her bell-ringer activities involves students searching newspapers for vocabulary words, cutting them out, attaching them to a piece of paper, and defining them. She always has stacks of newspapers around her room that are fairly current that students use for this activity.

This bell-ringer engages students in both reading current events and practicing defining vocabulary words. When she wants to use this activity at the beginning of the period, Mrs. Patil simply writes 'newspaper words' on the board and students know what to do when they enter the room. This activity isn't as calm as journal writing, but it still serves the purpose of getting students settled in and ready to work.

3.) Editing

Editing work is an important skill for high school students to master. Mrs. Patil helps her students practice this by including editing as one of her bell-ringers. For this activity, Mrs. Patil has a bin in her classroom where she places sheets with mistake-riddled passages. When students enter the room, they will see 'daily edit' written on the whiteboard and know to go to the bin and grab a paper.

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