When the school year begins, it is a time for adjustment and evaluation. The amount of paperwork that a teacher is responsible for at the start of school can take up more time than the normal day allows. Bell ringer activities -- quick activities that get students on task and working independently -- free teachers up to accomplish their administrative tasks. Such activities also provide teachers with the opportunity to assess students during the critical beginning of the school year.
The first week of school is an ideal time to assess the skills of your students. Oftentimes, students can be misplaced, and it is important to detect this quickly. Give students a series of questions on a particular skill such as grammar. Students can identify the parts of speech in a couple of sentences, or find errors in a sentence. Use the results of the bell ringer activity to determine if the necessary basic skills have been mastered.
Place a quote on the board or overhead with instructions for students to write a reaction to it. Students should break down the quote and relate it to themselves. Give students five minutes to respond, and use the reaction as a springboard for a quick class dicussion. Align the quotes with the units you will be covering the first few weeks of school. Use the writing samples to assess students as well.
Select a list of vocabulary words that are on grade level for the students in the class. Teachers can also use terms that relate to the subject area of the class. Place words in a word bank at the top of the page. Include a paragraph with missing words. Students use context clues to place the vocabulary in the right places. This bell ringer activity highlights students' abilities to identify context clues, usage based on parts of speech, as well as their general vocabulary skills.
The Name Game
Generate a list of statements about famous figures from your subject area. These might be characters, historical figures, scientists or any other relevant figure. If you want to make the activity less challenging, provide a word bank with the possible choices. This bell ringer activity is a nice way to review information that students should have already mastered from their previous school year. Go over the actual answers with the class to conclude the activity.