" ... the most important factor affecting student learning is the teacher."
- Wright, Horn, & Sanders (1997)
Not sure what BELL WORK is?
Sometimes called bell ringers or morning work, this is an activity students complete at the start of class with little (if any) guidance from the teacher.
Watch this video for an overview of how this strategy can be used at the start of each of your classes, each and every day.
How it works in my classroom
- Students enter room.
- Student get a card to find their seat for the day. I take index cards and write "clues" based on information from the current unit. On each desk are "answers" to go with the clue. Students match their "clue" to the "answer" and that is where they sit. This makes their seating arrangement random each day. (They don't realize it, but they've started reviewing information as they find their seats each day.)
- I have an information poster in the room, where the chapter objective, today's bell work, tonight's homework, and dates of upcoming assessments are posted. Students know to look there to see what to do at the start of class. Like the video, I start this on the first day of school.
- Bell work is a timed activity, so students do feel some pressure to get it done in the allotted time. This "due by a time" feature also encourages them to get started on the task quickly. I found that when I just had an assignment without a due by time, students were slower to get started and time was wasted.
- When time is up, we go over the answer to the bell work and then immediately start the day's lesson.
Alternate ideas because bell work is not always seat work.
I teach chemistry. On lab days, the bell work is to put on a lab apron and lab goggles, to be sure long hair is tied back, and to have your lab book open to today's lab.
On quiz days, the bell work is to get out a pencil, calculator, testing center, and periodic table AND to arrange desks in quiz format. Then, it is quiet review time. For the first quiz, they come in and the desks are already arranged in what I call "quiz format". The next time they quiz, it is their job to move the desks (but they know what the format looks like because they've seen it before). ** Note: I might employ the tape-on-the-floor suggestion from the video we watched in week 1 of this class.
On days that homework problems are due, the bell work might be to put a problem on the board. In cases like this, I have written problem numbers on slips of paper. Kids get a slip with a problem number on it and write the solution to that problem on the board.
On days when they'll be using a graphic organizer for class notes, the bell work would be to go to the science website and download the form to their OneNote notebooks. By doing this, they are ready to start the lesson when I am.
Benefits to using bell work on a daily basis
- When I am ready to start class, the students are focused and ready as well.
- Their brains have now started the transition to thinking about chemistry class. On days I do not have anything for bell work, I have to spend time reeling them in to class.
- The amount of chatter and distracting talk is diminished.
- Students know that they are in my room to work and work immediately starts.
- Because they have something to do immediately, off-task behaviors are minimal.
Ideas for bell work for the non-chemistry classroom
When I realized students understood the routine & could do it without my cues
I was detained in the school office one day between classes. The conversation in the administrator's office was one that could not simply be tabled for another time. This made me late for my sixth hour class. I rushed down the hall to my classroom. I was easily 4-5 minutes late to class. I opened the door to find all of my students in their seats, quietly working on bell work. Yes, the students received all kinds of praise from me for following my expectations when I wasn't even present in the room. This was definitely one of those smiling teacher moments.
Food for thought
Using our classroom time efficiently and effectively is key to student learning. Not wasting those precious few minutes at the start of class and instead using it as a warm up exercise for students' brains is a great way to set the tone for a focused learning environment from the very beginning.
Have a great school year!