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How to use digital bellringers to make your classroom more interactive

The essential question. The question of the day. The lesson hook. The (digital) bellringer. Whatever you call it, the purpose is the same—to engage your students and get them to think deeply about the subject matter from the moment they enter the classroom.

According to the nonprofit Teaching Tolerance, when done well, bellringers can be the most important five minutes of the class, helping students transition from the hallway to the classroom, set aside worries and distractions about their peers or family, and prime their minds for work. A good bellringer gets your students’ wheels turning and sets the tone for your entire class period.

When they aren’t done well, however, bellringers are nothing more than a hurried, half thought out question on the board that the class may or may not return to during the lesson, easily ignored and easily forgotten. Even if you remind your students to reflect and write about the question—what do you do with all that writing? Collect 30 or more bellringer notebooks per class so you can make comments? Ask two or three students to share their thoughts with the class? The logistics can make even the best planned bellringers feel like a wasted opportunity.

Five Interactive Digital Bellringers To Get Your Class Started Right

Digital bellringers may be the answer you’ve been looking for. Digital bellringers create very little downtime—or time spent collecting, managing, and organizing student work—keeping the beginning of class fast-paced and interactive. Here are our favorite tools to use with your Clear Touch Interactive® display to design engaging bell work for your class:

Google Slide Presentations. The bellringers you can create using Google Slide presentations are endless. Set up a Google Slide presentation for each student in your class and ask them to keep a year-long digital bellringer journal. Your students (and your back!) will thank you. Or set up a collaborative presentation once a week by creating a slide presentation with one slide per student. Give your students five to ten minutes at the beginning of class to add an image to their slide, write a few ideas down about it, find an interesting video to embed, or add some music. After students are done, you can have a little fun by quickly going through student responses on your Clear Touch Interactive® display and noting how different students react to the same prompt. These kinds of activities build digital literacy and are completely customizable to your students and grade level.  

Everyday Edits. If you’re an English teacher, or even if you aren’t, Education World’s Everyday Edits are a great resource for elementary and middle school educators. Each paragraph includes ten built-in errors covering grammar basics such as spelling, verb tense, capitalization, and more, giving students daily exposure to grammar skills in a way that’s fun and interactive. To use Everyday Edits as a bellringer, post the paragraph on your Clear Touch panel and either give your students a corresponding worksheet or allow students to find the errors digitally. Everyday edits also make a great whole class activity.

Clear Touch™ Educational Software Suite. The full suite of educational software products that comes with every Clear Touch Interactive® display includes DisplayNote, a quick and simple screen sharing software. If each student in your class has a connected device, use screen sharing to quickly interact and discuss student answers to the bellringer activity. You can also use the included software to set up a quick quiz or riddle, take an opening class poll, or take attendance by asking a controversial or intriguing question and asking students to drag their name to the answer that most closely matches their feelings on the issue. Clear Touch educational software enables you to create quick, formative assessments—check out Clear Touch Academy and the Snowflake MultiTeach Community for more great ideas.  

Padlet. Padlet is essentially an interactive, collaborative digital bulletin board that allows for multiple participants without any sign-in. For an inspiring bellringer activity, set up a digital bulletin board on your Clear Touch Interactive® panel posing a What If…or a What Do You Know About… question. For example, you could ask “What if Earth were twice as big?” or “What do you know about ladybugs?” As students enter the classroom, they can add images, video clips, facts, their own writing, and personal experiences to the bulletin board, either at the board or from their connected devices at their desks. What If questions encourage students to exercise their imagination while What Do You Know About questions activate prior knowledge.

Write About. No matter what grade level or subject you teach, bellringers tend to be writing heavy—and for good reason. Writing or journaling is one of the best ways to get students warmed up for the day. Coming up with writing prompts can get overwhelming, though. Write About has thousands of fascinating writing prompts for you to browse through and use with your students.

There are thousands more digital bellringer resources and ideas out there if you’re willing to get creative. A couple of our honorable mentions include BookSnaps (also MathSnaps, ScienceSnaps, etc.) and Flipgrid, both of which allow students to create and share images and annotations quickly.

Whichever tools you use, the goals of your digital bellringers should be to engage your students, activate prior learning, and create a fast-paced, seamless transition into the coursework for the day.

November 2, 2017

Clear Touch Team

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