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Using Bells in the Classroom

Instructor: Erica Marcus

Erica has her Masters in Teaching Secondary English and taught in the classroom for five years before turning her attention to professional development.

This lesson will discuss how and why a teacher might choose to use a bell in the classroom. It can be useful for attention-getting, cueing transitions, and settling students in the classroom, all while lessening the effort required from the teacher.

Teacher with bell

Imagine yourself in the middle of an exciting lesson in which students are in the midst of engaging group discussions. You look up at the clock and recognize it's time to move on, but there is a lot of chatter happening around you. You want everyone's attention, so you ask for it once. No response. You ask a second time, but a little louder. No response. Finally, in frustration, you call out over the clatter, ''Quiet!'' The room suddenly settles into shocked silence. Your students feel alarmed, you feel guilty for shouting, and you know your voice is going to be a little hoarse later that evening. The good news is that there's a better way. Bells in the classroom can help us effectively grab the attention of our students, cue transitions, and even help them settle their minds.

Attention-getting

Why are bells an effective way to grab attention? For one, they have a sustained sound that carries throughout the room. If students don't hear the initial ding, they may catch the sound as it reverberates. Also, when students are engaged in rich dialogue, abruptly ending the conversation can be jarring and leave them feeling unnerved. Giving them the time it takes for the sound of the bell to dissipate allows for students to finish a final thought and wind down into silence. Finally, as a general rule for teachers, the less talking we do, the better. Take yourself out of it, let the room respond to the bell, and save your voice!

Cuing transition

Bells are not only great for attention-getting, but also letting students know when it's time to move on. I have seen teachers use a distinct set of tones to signal the beginning of an activity, time to switch groups, and time to clean up. The more systems a teacher creates in the classroom, the smoother things tend to run overall. Making bells a part of your system gives students the autonomy to follow structures without your direct instruction.

Settling students

There are certain times of day when teacher expect the energy of their students to be running high. After recess and lunch periods, or before a test, can be hard for students to come in and recommit to focused attention. Bells can be a great tool to use at these times. One exercise you can try is to ring the bell and have students listen until the end of the sound. Students then raise their hand when they can't hear the sound anymore. In this way, you are issuing a challenge for students (which they love!) to pause and focus their minds. A variation on this is to have students listen for the bell and try to move their arms up over their heads so slowly that they only reach the top when the sound ends. These two exercises can help students refocus after time away from learning.

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Practice:
Using Bells in the Classroom Quiz

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Why would you have students ring the bell?

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