Bell Ringers for High School

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  • 0:00 What Is a Bell Ringer?
  • 0:51 Benefits to the Student
  • 2:17 Benefits to the Teacher
  • 3:38 Forming a Bell Ringer
  • 5:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Esther Bouchillon

Esther has taught middle school and has a master's degree in gifted education.

This lesson describes what a bell ringer is and its benefits to teachers and students. Examples of bell ringer types are also included. A short quiz follows the lesson.

What Is a Bell Ringer?

Mr. Bogart and Mrs. Martin both teach ninth-grade biology. Mr. Bogart's class often seems out of hand for the first ten minutes, and his students usually have a hard time recalling information from previous lessons. Mrs. Martin, on the other hand, has an orderly class that begins working right away and remembers prior information much more quickly. What is the difference between these two teachers? Mrs. Martin uses a bell ringer while Mr. Bogart does not.

Bell ringers are questions or tasks posted before students enter the classroom. They are to be completed before class starts, or, as the name suggests, as the bell rings. Despite potentially having an elementary connotation, bell ringers provide benefits to both the student and the teacher in a high school classroom.

Benefits to the Student

High school students move between classes several times each day, exposing them to a variety of teacher personalities and classroom management styles. Adolescents perform well in a routine, so establishing daily habits eases their transitions throughout the school day. The regular use of bell ringers in each class is one example of a procedure used to support daily habits. Expected routines help to provide a sense of safety and stability in the learning environment, especially for students who may not have such consistency in other areas of life.

Bell ringers also prepare a student's mind for learning. High school students are distracted by a multitude of diversions every day, like family situations, after school activities, and romantic relationships. Being reminded to think about class content before the class even starts pushes everything else to the back of a student's mind. For example, when a student enters her math class expecting to begin working on a bell ringer, her frame of mind is already focused on the learning that will occur.

Bell ringers also allow students to ask questions and interact with the teacher before the lesson begins. Students who were absent can get their missed work and students who simply need some extra review can reread their notes from the previous lesson. Overall, bell ringers provide students the opportunity to get settled in to the class and mentally prepare to receive new instruction.

Benefits to the Teacher

Teachers have a wide variety of administrative tasks to complete each class before getting into the day's lesson. Using a bell ringer gives the students something constructive to be working on while the teacher completes necessary tasks, like taking attendance, performing supervisory duties in the hallway, and reorganizing materials used by the previous group of students. Bell ringers also give teachers the time to interact and build relationships with individual students.

Students often forget information taught in previous lessons, so teachers can use bell ringers as refreshers and formative assessments. Using review questions in a bell ringer is a good way to quickly learn what content the students have mastered and what needs to be retaught. Similarly, teachers can use bell ringers as a pre-assessment to determine what students already know about lessons yet to be taught. The teacher can then tailor instruction specifically to the needs of the students.

The regular use of bell ringers also helps to establish that ever-important routine in a high school classroom. Though routines benefit students, they also help teachers manage the classroom. Bell ringers solve the problem of beginning class in an orderly manner when the teacher must focus on something other than the students. When students are busy doing the bell ringer, they are also less likely to be engaged in disruptive behavior.

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