25 Bellringer, “Do Now,” or Early Finisher Ideas to Start Your Year off Right!

bellringer-imageLooking for a few new ideas to get next year started off right?  Need some ideas that are not just Daily Oral Language?

There is much debate on whether a warm-up activity should be related only to previous lessons or to help introduce the day’s material, or whether a warm-up can be totally unrelated to the students’ curriculum.  I am of the mind that if you don’t have your students engaged and ready to learn, you can’t teach the curriculum anyway, so I always liked to do warm ups I thought my kids would like.  The choice is yours.  Either way, the idea is not to take up too much of the class time, but to get students’ brains moving, focused, and ready to learn!

I have decided to put together a compilation of my favorite bellringer (do-now’s) or warm-up activities to help get your kids focused and ready for class.  I recommend having students keep a journal (such as a composition book dedicated ONLY to your class) that you check randomly so that you know that they are doing their bellringer; these need to be activities that can be done independently (unless you deliberately want them to work together) and very brief (unless it is leading into or related to your day’s lesson).  They can also be related to a participation grade or a citizenship grade, so I recommend gathering a few every week to be sure that kids are staying on task.  Be sure that they know you will not be grading them all–but that you will be choosing to grade them randomly.  This should keep them all on their toes.  Don’t worry about making comments or “grading” per se.  Simply assign a point or a “plus” or checkmark that they know you have checked their work.  You DON’T want to create more grading work for yourself, so keep it simple.  These can also be used as exit slips, for early finishers, and most are great to keep on hand for extra credit or makeup opportunities in a pinch.

Finally, try to keep these to the first five minutes of class (unless specified otherwise).  Students won’t want to miss out on their daily participation grade, so it encourages them to be on time!

Here are some of my favorite warm-up activities for starting class:

  1. Respond to an interesting or thought-provoking quote (try BrainyQuote.com or The Quotations Page for ideas)
  2. Give students a brainteaser, puzzle, or riddle to solve (try NEIHS Kid’s Pages or BrainDen.com.)
  3. Word of the Day – have dictionaries on hand and have students give definition, part of speech, 1 synonym, 1 antonym, root word or see my own Word of the Day program.
  4. Play a song that uses figurative language and have students try to find as many examples as they can of the figurative language, then identify the type. Tracee Orman has a free activity for “Firework” by Katy Perry that kids would love!
  5. Give students a brief poem to analyze for one specific element, such as figurative language, symbolism, repetition, alliteration, etc.  Have them write their 1-2 paragraph response in their journal.
  6. Give students one or two elements of a story, for example a character and a setting, and have them freewrite a short story (with the 5 W’s) using your prompt.  Make it fun…for example, Cinderella in the Hunger Games, or use a character from a novel they are studying…Gatsby in the Star Wars.
  7. Give students a word or sentence and have them see how many words they can make out of that word or sentence.  Winner gets a prize.
  8. Image or piece of art- write about what is happening in the image or piece of art (there are some great ones on this Pinterest board)
  9. Mystery Picture – give students a very odd or interesting picture; have them give you the who, what, why, when and how of the picture (here is a website with a bunch here–but be sure to screen them for appropriateness before posting)
  10. Have students explain a proverb, idiom, or analogy.
  11. Have students illustrate a scene from the novel you are currently studying.
  12. Display a cartoon strip (captions missing) on an overhead or whiteboard and have students write the dialogue for the cartoon.  These can get really funny…have them share!
  13. Have students create 5 original sentences using either metaphor, simile, personification, alliteration, hyperbole, assonance, onomatopoeia, etc. They can write one sentence for each, or you can have them write 5 sentences using metaphors one day, 5 sentences using similes the next, etc.
  14. Have students respond to a political cartoon.
  15. A brief video from YouTube or TeacherTube – especially one that relates to the work you’ve been doing in class (i.e.historical context), then have them journal or discuss their response to the video
  16. Pre-made BRIEF worksheets/handouts…a TON for free on TeachersPayTeachers that would be great for this type of thing (I recommend Margaret Whisnant’s Freebies…here is her Pinterest board of them)
  17. 10 minutes of free reading (books, magazines, articles, etc.)
  18. Have students come up with 3-5 questions based on the previous day’s lesson, then discuss/answer. This is a good way to assess comprehension levels.
  19. Give students a list of 5-10 interesting words that they must use in a poem or quick story.
  20. Plastic Eggs (give each student a different question to answer hidden in an egg; sometimes even put a candy in them as a surprise)
  21. Questions or journal prompts about current events.
  22. Have students respond to a startling statistic.
  23. Give students a brief crossword or Sudoku puzzle to solve.
  24. Stretch – Give students a few minutes to walk around, stretch, and get some of their energy out.  Depending upon when your class falls, students may have been sitting for hours, less the time it took to walk to class.
  25. Have baggies with 5-10 cards from a game like MindTrap, Trivial Pursuit, or Trivial Pursuit for Kids.  Let them quiz themselves on what they know, or if it is for a bellringer, have groups compete, answering 5 questions.  Winning team gets a prize.

I am sure there are a ton more ideas out there!  I would love to hear what you do!