Earth Science Bell Ringers

Instructor: Rachel Tustin

Dr. Rachel Tustin has a PhD in Education focusing on Educational Technology, a Masters in English, and a BS in Marine Science. She has taught in K-12 for more than 15 years, and higher education for ten years.

Earth science is a broad discipline of science, that has all sorts of real world applications students can relate to. As a result, you can create bell ringers that allow students to practice scientific reasoning and use real world data.

Earth Science

When you think of the bell ringers you did in your science classes growing up, you probably think of one word: boring. For a lot of our students, they may feel that way too. However, earth science is a wide and interesting discipline of science, covering geology, oceanography, and meteorology. If you use your bell ringers to build upon what you are already doing in class, they can be fun and thoughtful times in class for students to hone their skills.

Rocks and Minerals Bell Ringer Ideas

You can do a lot of great easy bell ringers with geology that can even reinforce analytical skills students need to apply in science. For example, if you were studying rocks and minerals you might create a series of bell ringer activities based on identifying minerals from data provided. To make this truly a skills practice, you would want to give them a mineral dichotomous key to keep in their notebook and use for their bell ringer. For example:

  • This mineral has cleavage along a single plane, has no streak when tested, and a hardness around 3. Answer: Biotite
  • This mineral scratches with your fingernail, produces a white streak when tested, and has a pearly luster. Answer: Alabaster Gypsum

When you are teaching rocks and the rock cycle, there are a lot of fun, engaging bell ringers you can do. Sometimes you can do a bell ringer as a completion. For example, let's say you have students make flashcards for samples of the three different types of rocks (sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic), such as limestone, sandstone, basalt, marble, etc. Each card would have a picture of the rock on the front and its name. Once students make a set, you can do all types of bell ringers with them. For example:

  • Set the timer and have the students silently speed-sort their rock cards into three categories: sedimentary, metaphoric, and igneous.
  • Students could randomly draw two cards, and create a Venn diagram or T-Chart to compare the characteristics of the two different rock samples.
  • Students could lay out their rock cards on a piece of paper, and then use arrows to show how the rock samples would be formed during the rock cycle.

Rock formation images are great for using in bell ringers to show students real life geology

Earth Layers Bell Ringer Ideas

The layers of the earth may seem a little easy and even dull to some students, but you can create some great bell ringers to get students thinking more deeply. Provide students with a profile diagram of the layers of the earth (crust, mantle, outer core, inner core). Mostly likely, you already had them construct one in class as part of their notes. Using the diagram students can complete all kinds of bell ringers:

  • Give students a temperature, and ask them to explain what layer of the earth their 'sensor' is likely to be located and why.
  • Provide students with an element and ask them to explain what layers of the earth it is located in.
  • Have students create a mnemonic device to remember the layers of the earth, or even what elements are found in a certain layer of the earth.

Earthquake Bell Ringers

When you teach about earthquakes in earth science, you cover a lot of material from types of faults to perhaps even locating the epicenter of an earthquake. This information can be practiced using a variety of bell ringers. For example:

  • Provide students with a seismograph that shows the P and S waves of an earthquake. Have them use a ruler to measure and then use the amplitude chart to determine how far away from the seismograph station the earthquake occurred.
  • Provide students a map that is already set up to show the distance of an earthquake from three different seismographs around the world. Have students interpret the map to determine where the epicenter of the earthquake occurred.
  • Have students write an analogy to explain how a particular type of fault works (such as a strike-slip fault).

Oceanography Bell Ringers

Oceanography is another branch of earth science that students and teachers enjoy. For a lot of students, it is a branch of science that they may associate with the beach - but it is so much more than that: ocean circulation, tides, and even the deep sea floors.

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