25 ELA Bellringer, Do Now, or Early Finisher Ideas

ELA bellringer, early finisher ideas

What is the purpose of a warm-up activity or bellringer? Should it be an extension of the previous day's lessons or an introduction to the current lesson? Or should it be completely unrelated as long as it's engaging? 

The idea of daily warm-ups or bellringers is ideally not to take up too much class time but to get students' brains moving, focused, and ready to learn. While we've all heard different opinions on when and how to use warm-ups, bellringers, or "Do Now" activities, whatever you choose to do is the right decision. It's your classroom, and you know your students best, after all.

We've compiled a list of our favorite bellringers to help focus and engage students so that you can handle taking roll and other tasks at the beginning of class.

First, we recommend having students keep a journal (such as a composition book dedicated ONLY to your class) that you randomly check for completion. Bellringers should be activities that students can complete independently (unless you deliberately want them to work together), and they should be very brief (unless it is leading into or related to your day's lesson).  

These activities can go to a participation or citizenship grade, so we recommend gathering and scanning through a few students randomly (not the entire class each time) to ensure that kids stay on task. Alternatively, you can ask students to put a star on the work they are most proud of for that week, and that will be what you assess. 

Don't necessarily worry about making comments or "grading" per se unless you are moved to. Assign a point or a "plus" or checkmark (or give students a sticker - even high school students love stickers!) that they know you have checked their work. You definitely DON'T want to create more grading work for yourself, so keep it simple. 

Keep bellringers to the first 3-5 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 our favorite warm-up activities for starting class:

  1. Respond to an interesting or thought-provoking quote (try Brainy Quotes' Quote of the DayQuote of the Day, or Thought for the day for ideas)
  2. Give students a brainteaser, puzzle, or riddle to solve (try NEIHS Kids Pages)
  3. Word of the Day – have dictionaries on hand and have students give definition, part of speech, one synonym, one antonym, and root word; have students draw a picture or write a sentence using that word. 
  4. Play a song that uses figurative language and have students try to find as many examples as possible, then identify the type. Tracee Orman has a free activity for "Firework" by Katy Perry that kids love!
  5. Give students a brief poem to analyze for a specific element, such as figurative language, symbolism, repetition, alliteration, etc. Have them write a 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 free write 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 see how many new words they can make out of that word or sentence. The winner gets a prize!
  8. Image or piece of art – write about what is happening in the image or piece of art.
  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.
  10. Show a quick 1-3 minute video and have students respond. These can be non-ELA related, i.e., financial literacy, global warming, mindfulness, job interviews). 2-Minute Classroom has quite a few, as does RSA Shorts.
  11. Have students explain an adage, proverb, idiom, or analogy. Especially something their parents always say! (I often heard "For every action, there's a reaction" in my childhood…)
  12. Have students illustrate a scene from the novel you are currently studying.
  13. 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! 
  14. Have students respond to a political cartoon. But be careful that students understand the context. If they do not have the background knowledge of what is being satirized, they may not comprehend it. 
  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… here is a Pinterest board of TONS of Freebies on TPT.
  17. 10 minutes of free reading (books, magazines, articles, etc.)
  18. Have students brainstorm 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 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 candy in them as a surprise)
  21. Questions or journal prompts about current events.
  22. Have students respond to a startling statistic, especially one that is relevant to their lives or affects them in some way.
  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 meets, 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 five questions. The winning team gets a prize!

Of course, the activities also are used as exit slips, for early finishers, and most are great to keep on hand for extra credit or make-up opportunities in a pinch! 

What have we missed? What are your favorite bellringer activities! Share below.


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