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How to Make Bellringers Authentic

posted Jan 21, 2013, 1:47 PM by Kate Petty

13. How to Make Bellringers Authentic

WRITTEN BY: KATE PETTY -originally published APR• 05•12

My former master teacher called them “sponge” activities.  You know, those quick 3-5 minute activities that “soak” up time at the beginning of a class?  Traditionally they’re on a transparency or the board and they, most often, deal with grammar.  Teachers use them for a variety of reasons however I’ve never been disciplined enough to plan ahead and get them ready every day.

UNTIL…

I was recently at a workshop where Doug Fisher briefly touched on a small but pretty profound topic for me: using bellringers as review.  He uses bellringers in his class to not only act as small “pop quizzes” but also as review for the past units of the semester.

HERE’S WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE IN MY CLASS:

My students glance at the front board as they walk in the door and to their seats.  There is one of two possible activities for them to do immediately.  The first activity I won’t discuss in this article but I’ve posted it before- RSS as SSR. The second possibility is one of six questions.  If you follow my blog, you know that I set my classroom up into groups of six which just happens to give me six groups.  Each morning I write six different questions up on the board and the groups have a first-come, first-served opportunity to answer one.  Each group chooses someone to go up and answer and the group can help the person respond.

After all the groups have finished responding we’ll go over them briefly as a class and I’ll occasionally do some diabolical thing like ask one group what another group’s answer was to a question just to make sure they’re paying attention to all of the questions and answers.  Every once in a while the bellringer is purely formative assessment on a group topic so I’ll just check the answer briefly to check that the group is moving in a good direction.

WHAT TYPE OF QUESTIONS ARE IDEAL?

Most of the time the questions are about the unit we are working in: theme, reading, quote analysis, author bio, etc.  Ideally these questions would be put on a pop quiz- they are deeper, open-book questions that are usually a lead into what we will be discussing for the day.
Examples:

  1. Give two things you remember about last nights/yesterday’s reading that haven’t been used on the board yet.
  2. Give six details from Oscar Wilde’s biography that we read yesterday.
  3. We discussed the theme of restraint yesterday, give two examples of it.

At least one to six questions will be former unit review.  Review questions are usually overarching questions that you would expect the students to remember for the final.
Examples:

  1. Give two things about Oscar Wilde’s life.
  2. What is Juvenilian satire?
  3. Name three of the six themes we researched in Heart of Darkness.

HOW CAN THIS BE MORE “TECHIE”?

Instead of the questions on the board, you can put a QR code up to a Google Form and have them answer the questions that way- the only downer being that students won’t see the answers unless you take the time to project them from your computer.
You can also try an app like Socrative- again, students won’t see the answers until you project them.

BENEFITS FOR THE TEACHER

  • This is the best, quickest, and most authentic formative assessment I’ve seen!
  • Teachers and students get a moment to prepare mentally for the class.
  • You can get the students reviewing for a final assessment throughout the year and not hear “Who is Oscar Wilde?” in June.
  • Meets ISTE-NETS for Communication and Collaboration and 21st Century standards for Assessment, Creativity and Innovation, and Communication and Collaboration.
  • It also meets Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards.

BENEFITS FOR THE STUDENT

  • Helps students learn to work together as a group toward a common goal.
  • Final assessment review
  • Gives students a chance to put their heads in the class
  • Students find gaps they may need clarification on

DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEAS?

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