How I Create Order with the Help of Bell Ringers

I'm excited to join Pam from Desktop Learning Adventures and Darlene from ELA Buffet and all of the rest of the superior secondary bloggers to bring you some ideas on Bell Ringers.

I think Bell Ringers are essential to creating a classroom community.  Why?  They become part of a routine that satisfies a need for safety that comes from order.  

Allow me to tell you a little story.  

Last year, I taught 2 classes of 8th grade ELA and the rest of the day I was facilitating in General Education classes for students with special needs.  Then there was a problem with a teacher in another ELA class.  The administration asked me to take over that class in October.  Immediately, I began to implement a starting routine that included bell-ringers.  At first this class was mean and would say things like "We don't like you.  We want Miss X back!"  I would respond with "I am sure you do." and then kept right on doing what I was doing.  

But you know what?  By December, they were my best class.  They needed that routine.  They needed someone to take charge of that runaway train and pull everyone together.

Did Bell Ringers do all that?  No!  But the bell ringers were part of our routine and we did them  The students could count on them and they knew what to expect from me so they helped to create stability.  
(And for some kids, stability can be hard to come by.) 

My entire starting routine includes:
1.  Greeting the students at the door.
2.  Students picking up materials.
3.  The bell ringing and me playing an inspiring song in the background.
4.  Students writing in their planners and then beginning the bell work.  (I take attendance.)
5.  I come around and initial planners and answer questions.
6.  The song ends and I announce that there are X number of minutes to complete the bell work.
7.  I come to the front of the room and welcome everyone.  Then we review the learning target and homework due date.
8.  Now we go over the bell ringer.

Believe it or not, this entire procedure takes only about 8 - 10 minutes once we get into the routine.  But you can see that for me, bell ringers are a necessary part of getting everyone in and settled.

Over the years, I have used many different types like:

A review of yesterday's lesson.
 A warm-up or preview of today's lesson.
Skill Practice.
(so students can practice something I have already taught but with which I can't spend any more whole class teaching time.)

Generally, I have gravitated toward skill practice for the very reason I stated above - there's never enough time!  If you use those too, you might want to take a look at these
 skill practice bell ringers all ready to go with a Halloween theme for writing conventions:

Bell Ringer Mentor Sentences with a Spooky Story for the month of October are perfect for any Middle School ELA class!  #teaching #languagearts #grammar #readingskills

I'll be honest - every year I experiment with bell ringers because while some things work well for some students, other things work well for other students - it all depends on the class.

Take this year for example.  
 I am teaching only Special Needs Learning Strategies and am facilitating in 15 other classes.  So for that one class I teach, I have 19 students each with very specific special needs.  Finding what works for them has been a challenge!

In fact, I am still figuring them out and am trying another type of bell ringer with them this week!  

I am going to be trying "free-writing".  Not only will this help build much-needed stamina, it can be an outlet for the students who have a lot on their minds and need some calm down time.

We will discuss what this looks like, sounds like, and feels like before we actually try it out.  We will need lists of ideas in case we get to class (which is the last period of the day) and think we are "done".  

Even though I plan to create the lists as a class activity and make anchor charts, I have ideas all ready to go to make sure our anchor charts are "spot on".  And I am happy to share my
 Free-Writing Plans with you!  

Thanks for stopping by!

Why I sign planners in Middle School

Every year I am struck by the fact that many people think that once a student enters middle school, they are magically old enough to assume all responsibility for all assignments on their own.


These are the same students whose bodies are changing at a rapid rate which affects the way they view themselves.  Everyone jokes about how middle schoolers are hormones with feet but no one stops to think about the impact.

Students spend most of middle school trying to figure out who they are, what they stand for, and where they fit in.  Some of this is related to body image and all of it is related to social pecking order.  Where does that fit into academic responsibility?  

It doesn't. It takes the backseat unless someone forces it up front.  That's why I sign student planners.

But it's more than that.  With all this change in the students' bodies and minds, it's somewhat comforting for them to have the same predictable routine and someone to hold them accountable.  By signing the planners, I'm saying "I love you enough to make sure you are aware of your academic responsibilities".

I just make it part of our bell work routine and it takes very little time.  If you'd like to learn how I structure my planner routine, please take a look at this free little helper:

As an added bonus, no one has to look like a "nerd" which would so totally not be cool.  Everyone has to fill in their planner and they can just blame it on me with the requisite eye rolls.  I just take those rolls as a compliment.  :)

Thanks for stopping by!

How I Build Community in Middle School

I am joining Pawsitively Teaching and Inspired Owl's Corner for "Pick 3" to share the ways I build community in Middle School.

First, I work to get to know my students - who they are, what they like and what they dislike.

Pin Source
.  These conversation starters would be great for journal entries, bell-ringers, or circle meetings.  

(Yes, I like to do some circle meetings in Middle School!  See more in the next pin.)

Pin source - click the link to see the video.

This pin is a link to a video that explains Responsive Classroom (RC).  I like to use RC in my middle school classroom even though its roots are in Elementary.

RC uses things like morning meeting, interactive modeling, logical consequences and much more to create a positive, successful learning environment. 

In middle school, I have experimented with morning meeting by having my own version of a circle meeting at the start of my class.  How does this work, you ask?

Well, we have a routine for entering the room that includes students picking up their materials on their way in and then writing in their planners.  Then, after writing in the planners, the students are to report to the circle (by the end of the song I play). 

In that circle, we greet one another by name, and then I ask a question to which each person responds (or passes) on.  We may review something from yesterday and/or create an anchor chart here as part of a mini-lesson.  Then I try to incorporate some physical movement activity to work with the concept we just talked about.

   Of course, we have agreements in place to determine proper procedure and behavior in this situation and in the beginning of the year, we mainly focus on getting to know you questions like the ones at the top of this post.

What I love about RC is that it builds community very quickly and allows students to be engaged and heard each and every day.

Pin source

Lastly, I also like to use Love and Logic which, among other things, helps teachers put the responsibility for behavior where it belongs:  on the student.  

It helps teachers use enforceable statements, figure out how to respond to arguing students, and guide students to solve their own problems (to name a few).  

Putting all of this together has created a class community that can live and work together well in my room each and every day.  That doesn't mean everyday is sunshine and flowers, but it does mean we are set up for success and are prepared to make corrections as necessary to get us back on track.

I hope these pins give you some new ideas!