BellWork: Start Your Class with Engaged Students

The Most Important Management Tool in the Teacher Toolbox

Are you yelling at your students to get quiet and begin class? It can be so stressful to begin every class, of every day, this way! BellWork will bring quiet sanity to your teacher life!

There are many names for it- BellWork, Bell Ringers, Warm-Ups, First 5’s, but they all mean the same thing.

What is BellWork?

BellWork is a classroom procedure that takes place during the first five to seven minutes of each and every class period, and is one of the most powerful tools in the teacher’s classroom management toolbox. Several extended benefits for you and your students stem from the use of BellWork.

BellWork sets the atmosphere for the class.

Instead of having your students “sit quietly” while you take roll, have them engaged in work right away- as soon as the bell rings! Taking roll is not a student task, so don’t have them involved in taking roll. While you are taking roll, students are busy working on the assignment. Most students love it when teachers take roll out loud. It becomes their time to be inventive with their answer when you call their name, it becomes time to get caught up with friends they haven’t yet seen that day. It becomes a waste of prime opportunity for the teacher to set the learning environment of the class and utilize every minute of the class as learning time! I have had many teachers try BellWork and then tell me that they just don’t know how they ever survived without it. If you are not using BellWork, you should consider using this powerful procedure. 

Take roll using a seating chart. Do not call names. Once you are finished with your clerical duties, you will be able to monitor student’s progress, and address any issues that struggling students may have. This is also an opportunity to deal with students that have been absent and need to schedule make up work.

Don’t waste valuable time!

Some students come in with the idea that BellWork is busy work. Make students accountable for their BellWork. Encourage pride in their work. Students need to “buy in” to the idea of BellWork. Let them know that any question is valid on all objectives studied since the beginning of the year. So, in March they may see a question on something they studied in September. Let them know that BellWork is an important constant review for state end of course exam/final exam. BellWork makes such a huge difference when you get to that review before the state test by keeping concepts up front in the brain.

Chemistry, like many subjects, is a building curriculum. Many concepts build on to previous learning. BellWork helps assess those that are still not getting it. I have had students that finally “get it” in February on something studied in November.

BellWork is a classroom procedure.

BellWork must be taught as a procedure. Introduce it on the first or second day with specific instructions. Explain to the students the reasons for BellWork- constant review for end of course exams! I also call it the “give me my 100 please” grade. Encourage students to use their notes to look up any question that they are not certain about. Frustration and searching for answers solidifies learning. Encourage them to do their very best, and they will have a high grade to average in. Once you have taught the procedure, expect it to be carried out. Don’t slack up- keep after it! Reinforce the positive action. Just walking into a classroom after the bell has rung and saying: “You guys are awesome, look at you doing your BellWork.”, or “Thank you Joe, thank you Sally, etc.” You will find others scrambling to get their work out. Don’t give up on it. You should have a smooth beginning to your class in just a few days.

Post BellWork in the same place everyday!

You should see students look at the BellWork as they enter the room. Also, I rarely, if ever, have the question: “What are we doing today?”. They are focused on getting the BellWork started.  Once I was delayed in the hallway by an administrator with a question. We walked into my classroom together, and all of my students were busy at work! Another benefit, great way to impress administrators, and for evaluations. You don’t say a word- take roll silently- students start BellWork- and everybody’s busy for the first five minutes without anything being said! A work supervisor doesn’t go around to every employee and say, “okay, it’s time to get to work.” Likewise, a teacher shouldn’t begin the class!

Post BellWork EVERY DAY!

Place BellWork in the same place everyday! I write it up on the board each morning. The BellWork may be questions to add to their current BellWork assignment, it may say “see screen” if you have the questions posted on the projector screen, it may say “see task card” if you give them a task card as they enter, it may say “you will need X items for test”, it may say “you will need to do X to prepare for lab”, it may say “continue on assignment X”. Whatever it says just have it in the same place everyday without exception.

Have a place established for students to get BellWork missed when they are absent. I have a classroom “notebook” where I record what we do each day along with BellWork and assignments. When a student asks “Did I miss anything yesterday?” I just point to the notebook. 

BellWork used consistently, with high expectations, can make your life less stressful, and beneficial for your students, too! So remember:

  • BellWork sets the atmosphere of the class.
  • Don’t waste valuable first of the class time.
  • BellWork is a classroom procedure that must be taught.
  • Post BellWork in the same place everyday.
  • Post BellWork everyday!

Give it a try, be consistent, and you will be amazed at the many benefits this classroom procedure will provide for you and your students!

If you’d like to give it a try:

Chemistry BellWork for the Entire Year

Until next time…

Beth Signature