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5 Reasons you may HATE Bell Ringers – and the solutions to run them easily

If you have been around It’s Not Rocket Science long, then you have heard about the secondary classroom procedure I can’t live without

That’s right – BELL RINGERS – or what I like to call “Prime Times” because the first five minutes are the most important part of your day. 

Do you hate bell ringers??

If so, you may already be checking out, because you can think of about 2304982304982 reasons why you don’t want to do bell ringers.  But hear me out!  I’ve heard it ALL and guess what?  I still think you should do them.  So today I am going to share with you the 5 biggest oppositions I hear to implementing bell ringers, and why I think you should do them anyway. 

I hate when the kids just wait for me to go over them to write an answer down.

I give students 5 minutes and then when the timer goes off, everyone passes their papers sideways and I collect them in rows (this makes redistributing them easier, too, because they are generally in the order in which they sit).  THEN, once they are all collected, I go over the answers!

Some students either don’t even try to answer the questions, or do not have the time required to finish.

I grade mine for 5 points a day, which motivates students to try.  I collect before I go over it so they can’t just wait to jot down the answers. 

For students who don’t have enough time, I make sure to write the questions in a way that they can be answered quickly, and often with just one word.  For students with IEPs, I will tell them they only have to do the odd questions.  This allows them to get double the time, per most of their accommodations, and has really helped them!  

I hate having to follow up with absent students to make them up when they return.


After a few months of doing this, I stopped having my students make up the Prime Time for the day(s) they missed.  Instead, at the end of the week I just calculate their score and transpose it.

For instance, if they only came 4 days that week and thus did only 4 Prime Times and made a score of 15/20, that’s a 75%.  So I’d calculate 75% of 25 = 19/25 and that is the score I input into the grade book! This was WAY EASIER for them AND me!  If a student missed the majority of the week, I’d just put the score into the grade book as exempt so that the score neither hurts nor helps.  When I am grading the day’s bell ringer, I write a note on the ones who were absent so I will remember at the end of the week when I tabulate their weekly score.

Students constantly asking, “Is this right??” type of questions.

At the beginning of the year (or whenever you start implementing) set the tone for how this time will run in your class.  Mine starts the second the bell rings, and students get exactly 5 minutes.  They CANNOT TALK TO ME, but they can use their notes.  This also decreases cheating and I regularly tell them, “You can use your notes, but not your neighbor!”  

You have to be CRAZY strict at the beginning of the year to train them not to ask questions.  I pretty much say, “Don’t talk to me unless you are dying”  😂😅  I know that sounds harsh, but it was the only way to get them to rely on their notes and not me!! After the first few weeks I’d let them ask a question ONLY if it was a clarifying question about the bell ringer, not about their actual answers.

Also, if I see them copying or whispering to a neighbor, I make the whole class put away their notes and work from memory.  They HATE this and learn that their notes are much more reliable than their neighbor, and it stops the cheating.  I’ve never had to do this more than twice for the class to get the message.  If you have a recurring issue with an individual student, you can simply collect just theirs.

I don’t know how I would find time to grade them daily.

This is a major complaint many have, but a critical component of proper implementation to maximize their effectiveness.  The whole point of the Prime Time is to (1) give you time to take attendance and get students thinking right away and (2) check in and see how students are doing with the content.  In order for it to be a useful tool to inform your instruction, you have to grade them that day, and preferably while students are still in class so you can follow up with individual students ASAP.

How do I make this happen?

  1. I specifically write questions with extremely short answers; the goal even being 1 word responses.
  2. I grade them during class; like when students are getting lab supplies I can grade a few, or if they are jotting down notes, I can grade a few more.  My goal is to write questions in such a way that I can grade one student’s answer in about 10 seconds.  This means I can grade an entire class in less than 5 minutes! 

Best of all, if you really implement this on a daily basis, you can stop grading as much of the other stuff you normally collect and grade, because this becomes the way you check in with every individual student daily.  It will save you SO much time in the long run!

If you just hate writing the questions, good news!  I have written a year’s worth of bell ringers for biology, physical science, and anatomy

I hope these suggestions help you to see how effective bell ringers can be in your classroom.  Are there any that I missed?  Anything still holding you back?  Let me know!

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