Social Studies Bell Ringers

Instructor: Barbara Fehr

Barbara has taught English and history and has a master's degree in special education.

The purpose of a bell ringer activity can be to pre-assess students' knowledge or to review already taught skills. In this lesson you will be introduced to five different bell ringers for use in a social-studies/history classroom.

Social Studies Bell Ringers

In an average school day, students will move between 5 to 7 different classrooms, teachers, and subjects. Usually there is about a five minute time gap for students to travel from one room to the other. Some students arrive almost immediately, while others seem to just barely make it before the bell (or after, in some cases).

To get students ready to begin thinking and working on a fresh subject, and to provide students with an immediate task once they walk into the room (whenever that is), it is good practice to provide a brief 5 minute activity. These short activities are called bell ringers. They are called this because they usually occur around the time the bell will ring to signal the start of class. You may have also heard them called warm-ups as they function as activities to help 'warm-up' the brain. In this lesson you will be introduced to five different bell ringer activities that function as review/study practice, possible pre-assessment, and standardized test practice.

Reading Investigations

Just as toddlers learn best by doing and finding out for themselves, students in school can learn well by acquiring the knowledge on their own. Reading Investigations are reading activities that allow students to find out the information for themselves. This type of activity gives the students a sense of ownership over the newly discovered information.

To use a reading investigation to introduce a new topic, in a social studies class, give each of your students the main ideas for what the class is about to study (2-4 main ideas). Assign each student a brief text that covers the new information. This is a good place to differentiate the types of text based on a student's individual reading ability. Allow students 5-10 minutes to read and find as much as they can for each topic and record their findings. Use the information that they found to kick off a discussion about the new topic.

Graphic Organizers

This plot diagram is used to demonstrate the events during the Prohibition Era.

Social studies provides a great opportunity to use graphic organizers that are often used in the English classroom. The events in history are non-fiction stories and can be analyzed in that way. In class, use flow charts, cause and effect graphic organizers, or plot diagrams (as seen in the image illustrating the prohibition era).

As a bell ringer, have an almost-completed version of the graphic organizer you have used in class and have your students fill in the blank portions. For example, in the image portraying prohibition place a couple question marks in the place of the last piece of information about the 21st Amendment. Students would need to remember which amendment ended prohibition and fill in the blank space.

Category Sorts

Category Sorts are cards with information on them that students have to place in the correct categories. The teacher can create the sort for the students as a pre-assessment to determine how much they know or as a way to study before a test. It can also be used as a student-made activity where the students create a sort for a topic that is of particular difficulty for them. As a bell ringer, you can give your students 5 minutes to practice their sorts before you post the correct answers on the board for them to check. You can use a current topic you are working on or use it as a review for any previous skill covered. For example, if you have studied the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II, you can have students sort the specific leaders, causes, and significant events based on which war they apply to.

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