10 MORE digital bell-ringer activities to kickstart class (Part 2)

Want to kick class off in a meaningful way … AND pull student interest into the lesson? Try one of these creative digital bell-ringer activities. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

We have a golden window of time at the beginning of any class.

For these first five or ten minutes of class (OK, probably more the five than the ten), we have our students’ most attention. It’s the most focused they’ll likely be for us all day.

If we squander that time, the rest of our time with them suffers.

But if we seize the opportunity that it is, we can spark interest and hook students into a lesson.

This is why great bell ringers are crucial — quick activities to get students going at the beginning of class, when the bell has just rung.

Technology and digital tools give us some unique opportunities to unlock activities that we could do otherwise — or couldn’t do as uniquely.

I recently posted part one of this post — 10 digital bell-ringer activities to kickstart class.

My brainstorming list had so many more ideas that I knew I had to write another post! So here are 10 MORE digital bell-ringer activities:

1. Tweet for someone. What would happen if a character in a story you’re reading tweeted about an event in the story? Or about an event in current events … or in another story? What if a scientist or mathematician or notable character in history tweeted? Now, you can let students create those tweets as bell-ringer activities. Use this Google Slides template. (Make sure you make your own copy.) Create a slide for each student. Then share the slide presentation with your students (through Google Classroom, through a learning management system, with a link using the blue Share button). Make it “Anyone with the link can edit”. Students jump on their own slides and add the following: a photo, the name of the person tweeting, the Twitter username (start it with @), and the tweet. Ninja tip: To turn the photo to a circle, click on the photo and use the dropdown button next to the crop tool to select a circle as the crop shape! 

2. Draw with your finger (or a computer touchpad). I doubt that the simplicity of a simple drawing will ever lose its relevance in a classroom. Images are powerful; they’re how our brain thinks anyhow. Having students draw what’s in their brains — or how they understand a concept — can be a quick and easy way to get them on track for the day. Formative (goformative.com) makes this easy AND digital with its “Show Your Work” questions. Create a new assignment in Formative and just add a “Show Your Work” drawing question with a prompt. Share the assignment with students. Then see what they come up with. Now, we don’t want to go digital for the sake of going digital, right? The tech should elevate the activity. Here, all of those simple drawings can be displayed quickly and easily from the teacher’s computer on a projector. Speed and simplicity.

3. Create a “What do you know about …” Padlet. Padlet (padlet.com) is like a digital bulletin board. Use it to tack digital notes to it with push pins. Those notes, though, can have links, files, images and other multimedia attached to them — much cooler than a regular bulletin board. Kick off class for the day by creating a collaborative “What do you know about …” Padlet. Pose a question: “What do you know about dolphins?” and encourage students to add whatever they can — personal experiences, facts, images, videos, whatever. This is a great way to activate prior knowledge.

4. Discuss an article digitally with Hypothes.is. Popular culture, the news and blogs are great sources of relevant, up-to-date content we can connect to our classes. Hypothes.is (hypothes.is) lets us share an article with students and start a digital discussion there. Imagine that the article is clipped out of a newspaper. (I know, old school stuff …) Hypothes.is lets students digitally highlight and add sticky notes all over that article — but with enough room to have unlimited annotations. Discuss an article with your class — or even share the discussion with others outside of your classroom. (Example: The author of the article you’re discussing!)

5. Dig into fascinating writing prompts. Need some new ideas to get students thinking — and then writing? Write About (writeabout.com) has a treasure trove of creative, thought-provoking writing prompts at www.writeabout.com/ideas. Choose one and then get the writing juices flowing, either on student blogs (Write About / blogger.com / kidblog.org) OR by giving students their own individual slides in a shared Google Slides presentation (see No. 7 in the previous bell-ringer post here).

6. Record a short explainer video. Sometimes, it’s just easier to show someone what you’re talking about than to write it. Students can fire up a screen recording video with Screencastify (screencastify.com) in moments using the tool’s extension for the Google Chrome browser. Students can quickly record their screen, record with their webcam and/or record audio with their microphone to kick off class. It’s easy for them to share those videos with others after uploading them to Google Drive — or to turn them in with Google Classroom or another learning management system.

7. Play a quick Quizizz game. Want to review some material? Go over content from a previous lesson? Even give students a fun way to look up new material? Play a quick Quizizz game to start class. (Ever played Kahoot!? Quizizz has many similarities.) When setting the game up, click the “homework” button instead of the “play live” button and set the completion time five or ten minutes into class. The game will display a join code and the Quizizz join site. Just display those to students and have them get started. They can start whenever they get in their seats ready to go, and it’s not synchronous (i.e. their progress doesn’t depend on the progress of other students).

8. Analyze books or articles with Flipgrid. In the previous 10 digital bell-ringers, we talked about how Flipgrid lets students talk about big world issues they’d like to tackle. Another way to use this platform is to let students talk about and analyze what they’ve just read. Give them a chapter from a novel, a short story or an article, a math problem they’ve solved — even something a fellow classmate has written! Flipgrid lets students record short videos (up to 90 seconds) about a topic. In this case, the topic can be what they’ve just read or worked on. When they’re finished, they can view each other’s videos. (The more interesting the prompt, the more likely they’ll naturally want to look at each other’s videos!)

9. Write emoji poetry or an emoji response. Brevity is an important skill in writing. Instead of encouraging students to write to a minimum number of words, let’s try constraining them to fewer words — and turn them into emojis! Have students summarize what they’ve been learning using emojis (maybe a maximum of 10?). The Google Chrome web browser has several emoji extensions (a favorite of mine is Emoji for Google Chrome). Mobile devices often have them built in. This encourages reflection on what they’ve learned and creativity in expressing themselves.

An example of blackout poetry by Austin Kleon in his book, Show Your Work!.

10. Write blackout poetry. Have you ever seen those poems written by marking out all of the words in a news article or book page except a few with a black marker? This is blackout poetry. This can be a fun — and creativity-provoking — way to kick off class. Have students take a photo of a page of text (or a screenshot of an article online). Paste that image into Google Drawings or Slides (or a mobile app that lets them draw with their finger, like Paper by FiftyThree). In Google Drawings, they can use lines or shapes (long skinny rectangles work great) to black out words. (Do a web search for “blackout poetry” for examples.) Students could create them on their own individual slides of a shared Google Slides presentation (see No. 7 in the previous bell-ringer post). If each student has his/her own slide, the whole slide show becomes a big gallery of blackout poetry!

Question: What are your favorite bell-ringer activities to get class kicked off? Which of these are you most likely to try? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:

 DateEvent / Event DetailsCity / More Info
+ 06/01/2018
MSD of MartinsvilleMartinsville, IN
+ 06/04/2018
Granbury ISDGranbury, TX
+ 06/05/2018
Columbus City SchoolsColumbus OH
+ 06/06/2018
School City of MishawakaMishawaka, IN
+ 06/07/2018
Lafayette eLearning ConferenceLafayette, IN
+ 06/12/2018
2nd Annual Learn, Explore, Adopt and Deliver (LEAD) ConferenceCleveland, OH
+ 06/13/2018
InnEdCoKeystone, CO
  Public Event
+ 06/19/2018
Tyler ISDTyler, TX
+ 06/20/2018
TransformED ConferenceWaco, TX
+ 06/21/2018
Barr-Reeve Jr/Sr High School- Washington Community SchoolsWashington, IN
  Public Event
+ 06/24/2018—06/27/2018
ISTEChicago, IL
  Public Event
+ 07/24/2018
Regional Math & Science ConferenceAmarillo, TX
+ 07/30/2018
Oklahoma City Public School Resource CenterOklahoma City, OK
+ 08/01/2018
Flipgrid Event + Evening Live StreamMinneapolis, MN
+ 08/02/2018
Virginia Beach SchoolsVirginia Beach, VA