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40+ Bell Work Ideas for Every Class

40+ Bell Work Ideas

Whether you call it morning work, bell work, or bell ringers, having a start-of-class activity can work wonders when it comes to helping class start smoothly. Not only does bell work keep kids calm and help them focus, but it also gives you time to take attendance, answer the same question for the 13th time, and connect with that student who’s been absent for over a week. 

But once you’ve decided to have bell work, the next question is what should we do for bell work?

In order to be effective, bell work needs to be….

  • Simple & predictable. Students need to be able to do it independently, with no instruction or help from you.
  • Worthwhile & purposeful. It shouldn’t just be time-filling busywork. With so much to learn, we need to take advantage of this time and use it to strategically to further our students’ skills.
  • Short & to the point. If it takes too long, you’ll never get to your actual lesson.

Oh, and, of course, with your to-do list already filled to overflowing, you also need to find something that won’t take you 792 hours to create.

You need a good idea. And, thankfully, we’ve got a whole lot of them for you.

Feel free to browse this entire list of bell work / morning work ideas. Or, use these links to jump to the section most relevant for you:

Ideas to Make Bell Work Easier

These ideas  can be adapted to (pretty much) any class and might make managing bell work just a big easier.

  • Use page protectors & dry erase markers. For repetitive skills, put the practice sheet in a page protector and have students complete it with dry erase markers. They can then erase and reuse the same page over and over.
    Example: Kindergarten Morning Work Binder with Reusable Sheets 
morning work / bell work binder

Image from a video by Sweet for Kindergarten - Kristina Harrill:
Transform Your Mornings with the Morning Work Binder
Used with permission.

Bell Work Ideas for Everyone

  • IXL.com Students of all ages can practice a variety of skills online. Both free and paid plans are available at ixl.com
  • ACT/SAT question of the day. In high school, have students practice one SAT or ACT question each day. You can use a practice test or use a website like this one: SAT Question of the Day
  • Online review/quiz sites. Have students review with online quiz sites like Quizlet, or my students’ personal favorite, Kahoot (use the Challenge feature).
  • Mindfulness activities. Let students pause and reset with deep breathing. You can even have a student start the class off.
  • Logic problems. Find logic puzzles or problems on your students’ grade level.
  • Social-emotional learning journals. Students answer writing prompts that help them develop skills like self-regulation.
    Example: Social-Emotional Learning Journals for Grades 5-8
  • Spiral review: Use bellwork time to review & keep fresh skills you’ve previous learned.
    Example: Morning Work Spiral Review (2nd grade)
  • Get to know each other discussion: Use morning work time to help your students get to know each other - and get the need to chat out of their system - by asking them to discuss a prompt with someone around them. Example: Morning Chats

Bell Work Ideas for Math

middle school math bell ringers
  • Speed drills: Use bell work time to build students’ math fact fluency with speed drills. You can totally use these in upper grades, too. Just be sure keep it low-pressure and fun.
    Example: Math Fact Speed Drill Worksheets (FREE)
  • Think a Minutes: Grab a copy of one of Dr. Funster’s Think a Minutes book, available for grades 2-8. These books include quick, fun thinking puzzles that develop reading comprehension, vocabulary, and mathematical reasoning as well as writing, spatial, and visual perceptual skills. They also build deductive, inductive (inferential), and creative thinking skills.
  • A Word Problem a Week: Have students work on the same word problem for a week. Considering having one day designated (maybe Wednesday) to collaborate with peers.
    Example: Problem of the Week Bell Ringers (5th grade)
  • Task cards: Have students review and practice skills using task cards. Take it to the next level by pairing them with manipulatives.
    Example: Math Morning Work Task Cards w/ Manipulatives 
  • Math Chats: Start the day with a math discussion question so students can get chatting out of the way before the lesson starts.
    Specific example: 8th Grade Math Chats
  • Find the mistake. Students find the mistake incorrect example and explain their thinking in a short answer.
    Example: Eliminate It Morning Work Review (5th grade)
  • A number a day: In lower grades, students can do a variety of activities focused on a different number each day.
    Example: Number of the Day (1st grade)
  • Manipulatives: Allow your students to play with manipulatives of the day, so they are less distracted by them later.
  • Critical thinking writing prompts: Connect writing to math by having students answer mathematical writing prompts. 
    Example: Writing in Math Journal Prompts (grades 8-10)
  • Content warm-ups: Students practice the skills they're currently learning - or review those they've recently learned.
    Example: Geometry Warm Ups
  • Pattern block  puzzles: Starting the day with these hand-on logic puzzles will get your students thinking.
    Example:  Math Logic Puzzle Shapes
  • Individual interventions: Having the students come in and use a device to work on a self-paced program.                                                                                               Example: Bytelearn
use pattern block puzzles for morning work

Image from Pattern Block Logic Puzzles by Mrs. Winter's Bliss
Used with permission.

Bell Ringer Ideas for ELA

  • Silent Reading: The simplest bell work idea yet! Have students read silently. You can assign reading, but letting them choose might be even better.
  • Writing prompts: Provide a prompt each day for students to respond to. You can find thought-provoking prompts based on current events here: New York Times’ Student Opinion section (Please be discerning. Some articles/prompts may contain bias or not be appropriate for all audiences.)
    Another example: Journal Prompt Bell Ringers
  • Respond to a quote: Give a quote and ask students to write their thoughts on it. Check out this article for quote lists & ideas for how to use them: Using Quotes in the Classroom
  • Handwriting practice: Provide a page for students to practice handwriting. Simple and easy, without taking too much time out of everything else you have to do.
  • ReadTheory.org: Students can practice reading comprehension online each day. You can even track their progress. Here’s the website: readtheory.org
  • Practice spelling. Have students practice their spelling in various ways.
  • Find and correct mistakes. Review grammar, spelling, and punctuation by having students find and correct mistakes in sentences or paragraphs.
    Example: Daily Language Practice (4th grade)
  • Grammar practice: Use this time to help students brush up on grammar skills.
  • Use mentor sentences. Review elements of ELA using texts from popular books. Make sure you teach and explain the concept before expecting students to be able to do the bell ringers on their own. 
    Example: Mentor Sentences for Middle School Grammar (FREE)
  • Keep it varied: Focus on a different ELA area each day of the week. For example, give a writing prompt on Mondays, practice grammar on Tuesdays, etc.
    Example: English Bell Ringers (FREE)
ELA bell ringer response sheets

Image from Presto Plans. Used with permission.

Bell Work ideas for Social Studies / History

  • Map activities: If you never have time to get to maps, try making them your bell work activity.
  • Watch CNN Student News: Watch the brief news report and have students write a one-sentence summary on it. Here’s the link: CNN 10
  • Historical figure point-of-view. Students complete various tasks that help them better understand the perspective of the historical figures you’re studying in class.
    Example: Entrance and Exit Slips for Any Historical Figure
  • Respond to current events: Have students respond to writing prompts based on current events in  The New York Times’ Student Opinion section (Please be discerning. Some articles/prompts may contain bias or not be appropriate for all audiences.)
  • Research various countries: Students research various countries online and compile their findings. 
    Example: Countries of the World Bell Ringers (grades 7-10)
  • Create slides with warm-up questions: Create multi-media slides with pictures and questions that get students thinking.
    Example: US History Warm-Up Questions

Bell Ringer Ideas for Science

  • Analyze photos: Have students view a different picture each day and make 3 observations, 3 inferences, and 3 predictions. 
  • Science Journal Prompts: Have students answer a question each day in their science journal. 
    Example: Science Bell Ringer Journal for MS/HS
  • Respond to Science Quotes. Show science quote - from current times or from history, and have students respond to it. 
  • Switch it up. Have students complete a different activity each day of the week. For example, the bell ringers link to below have students learn a science term on Monday, have a discussion on Tuesday, respond to a video clip on Wednesday, analyze a quote on Thursday, and explain the science behind a science joke on Fridays.
    Example: Science Warm Up Bell Ringers for Earth, Physical, & Life Science

Morning Work Ideas for Lower Grades & Pre-K

  • Morning work stations.  Create morning work tubs with various hands-on activities that develop fine motor skills practice, sensory activities, and academic activities.
    Example: Morning Work Stations for pre-K through 1st
  • Practice fine motor skills - Have students practice cutting, handwriting, coloring, etc.
  • Review & practice key skills - Use extra worksheets in your curriculum or grab something like this: Morning Work Wake Up for Kindergarten
  • Use manipulatives - Give students guided activities with common classroom manipulatives and supplies such as dominoes, dice, or base 10 blocks.
    Example: Morning Tubs Tasks for K-2
morning work tubs with dominoes

Image from Morning Tub Tasks by Hanging Around in Primary.
Used with permission.

More Bell Work Ideas

  • Foreign Language: Share a fact each day about the foreign culture of the language you are studying.
    Example: Hispanic Cultura Diaria
  • Art: Have students respond to pictures of famous artwork.
    Example: Art History Sketchbook Prompts
  • Bible: Copy the memory verse.
  • Prayer: Have students fill out cards with prayer requests.

Let's grow this list!

We'd love to hear what's working well in your class. Share with a comment below.

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