Bell Ringers

Totally not a new idea.

But new to me.

My ideal scenario is that someone would create a large bank of ACT and WorkKeys questions that are arranged by concept, not score range. Then I could easily pick questions that review or preview our lessons and the students would probably not even notice that we were reviewing ACT material. Our juniors are way burnt out on ACT stuff. We only have 20 in the entire junior class. That's small, even for our small school . The math coach has been pulling individual students out and based on previous test scores, offering remediation. But, our coaches are only available foe the three year grant and we need a more sustainable program.


I decided to start doing bell ringers. I put two ACT questions and 2-3 review/preview problems from the current lesson. They are super easy to make. I make one for Algebra and Geometry in less than 5 minutes. I have them in a gray basket by the door. I told the students they are called bell ringers because when the bell rings, that's what they should be doing. I start the timer for 4 minutes and tell them to work on their own without talking. While they are doing that, I go around and check their homework as well as stamp their magical homework pass.

When the timer goes off, I tell them to check with their teammates to see if they got similar answers. Then I start with number one and ask how many people have an answer. I wait until at least half the class raises their hand. Then I ask them to tell me how they thought about it or solved it without telling me the answer. They have been really good about explaining what they are thinking and sometimes even why. I think that is the most beneficial part.

I've never mentioned ACT. I guess that they've noticed that the questions are multiple choice though. lol My hopes are that since I time them and make them not talk, it's a tiny bit similar to the real testing environment.  I have students keep their bell ringers all week and I collect the five on Friday. The date is included in the title so that I can easily make sure they are the right ones. If they have all five, on Monday they get an extra stamp on their magical homework pass. If they were absent or on a trip, sorry Charlie, no dice. I'm proud of myself for making that decision and sticking with it. Maybe it will be an incentive to actually show up.

I think that students are more willing to try and explain their thinking because it's not a grade so no harm done. I wanted homework to be that way but they aren't willing to do that for nothing. So I guess it's a trade off. I grade their homework so that they will do it and they are willing to try bell ringers because I don't. Anything for a stamp!

Algebra Bell Ringers
Geometry Bell Ringers


  1. I try to do similar "bell ringer" or warm-up activities at the beginning of each of my classes as well; usually around three or four times per week. Sometimes these relate to what we are currently doing, sometimes it is simply a puzzle or logic problem to keep things fresh and to have students start class with open minds.... Either way, I have found this to be a great (and fun) way to begin my classes.

  2. I am interested in hearing more about what you do to prepare students for the ACT . . . This is something our school is trying to focus on right now. We are thinking of starting a semester-long prep class, but I don't know if that will happen. I already do bell work, so I really like the idea of using ACT questions related to what we are learning. Now if only someone would organize those into topics for us . . .

  3. What a good idea for a
    blog post
    ! I aim to please. =)