7 ways to use bell ringers in middle school language arts!

Sponge activities are an integral part of any classroom routine regardless of content area. Those 5-10 minutes at the beginning of the period give students a chance to get settled, the teacher is able to take care of beginning-of-class-necessities (like check-ins and attendance), and it allows students’ brains to warm up for the lesson. Here are seven of my favorite ways to use bell ringers in my middle school language arts class!

Grammar: Grammar activities are a great way to start class. We often don’t have time to cover all of the grammar skills we’d like to during the school year, so using this time for practice comes in handy. My favorite resource for grammar instruction and practice is Daily Grammar Practice (DGP). You can look at her daily curriculum here. If you need some fresh, no prep ideas for grammar instruction & fun activities for students, check out my favorite resources below.

Quick Writes: One of my favorite take-aways from Kelly Gallagher & Penny Kittle’s book 180 Days is their use of daily, low-pressure quick writes. Whether you are studying narratives, arguments, expository texts, or poetry, the use of quick-write bell ringers will enforce the accompanying skills. For instance, if you’re studying argumentative writing, allow students time to complete low-stakes argumentative paragraphs in response to engaging topics like allowing cell phones in school or the best gaming systems. Here are the narrative and informative quick writes I use in my classroom!

Vocabulary: We can pretty much agree that having a solid knowledge of Greek and Latin roots is essential to vocabulary and comprehension. The question is – when do we teach it? Throw a few prefixes, suffixes, and roots in your warm up with fun activities and review them throughout the week. An easy way to tackle the language standards that takes very little time!

WIN Time: Often times, what kids need most is to take care of loose ends. Once every week or two, I give my students 5-10 minutes to take care of what they need (what I need). This may be chatting with me about missing assignments or test makeups, checking their grades, finishing an unfinished assignment, or simply decompressing. We go into “Starbucks Mode” for our WIN time. I like to throw in a virtual fireplace or seasonal scene to set the ambiance for quiet, productive time. You can download my image below and insert it as a background on your PowerPoint or Daily Agenda!

Silent Reading: One of the most timeless ways to start class is to have students read a choice novel for set duration of time. It allows for a nice, quiet start to class and students often finish the time excited to talk about what they’ve read. Remember my previous post about book talks? Start your class with a book talk and then let students read & share what their reading!

Content Review: Of course you can always Incorporate review questions from what you are currently studying to get students thinking about your previous lesson.

Test Prep: Teaching test preparation skills can be quite a hassle, but it is a necessary evil. Students need explicit instruction on how to take a standardized test and incorporating some of those skills as a bell ringer is a great use of time. In addition to general test preparation, practice questions are always good to include as well!

Do you use bell ringers in your classroom? Comment below to let me know how you use them and which idea I’ve given that you might like to try!

All the best, Natayle