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Expand your idea of a bell ringer in the science classroom. Although you can use traditional, individual seatwork, there are other options that will make your bell ringer activities more interactive and productive in the learning process.

Why Use a Bell Ringer Activity?

For some teachers, the bell ringer is simply a method to preserve sanity: five to ten minutes to ignore the children and catch a breath between classes. However, if used appropriately, it can be a productive time for students.

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Term-of-the-Day Bell Ringers

Bell ringer activities are chances for students to review material from the previous class or practice skills they need to be successful in the content area. When you design bell ringers, try to use them to their utmost potential. Pick a specific piece of content that you want students to grapple with for that ten minutes as a review that builds on previous material.One example to consider is a vocabulary four-square.

Have the students draw a square on the page, and write the ‘term of the day’ you want them to review in the center of the square. Then, assign them specific tasks to complete on each side of the square. For example, students could write a synonym or antonym, use the term in the sentence, write a sentence that gives an example, or a create sentence that explains how this term relates to another scientific word.Another quick and simple task students can do with a vocabulary term is to draw a picture that shows what the word means. As is appropriate, students may also write a few sentences explaining how their picture relates to the term of the day.

Students can also create a term-of-the-day tree. At the roots of the tree, students should identify any stems or roots that are used in the term. Roots and stems are everywhere in science terminology. For instance, the word ‘photosynthesis’ can be divided into ‘photo,’ ‘syn’,’ and ‘thesis.

‘ Students can fill the trunk with examples to illustrate the term. Then they can ‘branch out’ in the leaves to include any related terms, which can help students form connections among the science terms.

The result of a bell ringer activity using sticky notes and a bulletin board
Bell Ringer Movers and Shakers

Another version of this is the rotating graphic organizer.

Start a graphic organizer on a large piece of paper for each group of tables in your classroom, using a basic framework of the concepts they want you to include. If you have several periods per day, each class can add content to the organizer as the day progresses. If you only have 1-2 periods a day, you might have students rotate during the bell ringer time and add to the graphic organizer.

Design a Bell Ringer with Immediate Feedback

You may know teachers who spend hours a week grading bell ringers, and odds are neither they nor the student gets any productive feedback out of that experience. Technology can change all of that.If you are fortunate enough to have devices for students to use, try creating a bell ringer students complete online.

There are many websites that allow you to build quick activities for students, and the website provides instant feedback. You might make a short practice or game students can complete for the ten or so minutes of bell ringer time.Another option is to create a blog where students can have a discussion on a topic during bell ringer time. You can post two to three prompts related to the material of the week, and each student can respond to your prompt or another student’s response as the week goes on. With blogging, everyone has a voice, and you can participate in the discussion as well. If you choose to do this, you need to clearly organize the blog so that students know where to post and what you expect them to include in their response.

Short ‘I agree’ or one-word answers don’t help propel the discussion forward. You might even require your students to end their response in a question to keep the discussion going.There are also innumerable websites where you can create short interactive games, such as Zondle or Quizlet. You can share these games with your students so that your bell ringer becomes an opportunity to review key concepts or vocabulary, and students can come back to these activities outside of the classroom.

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