11 Powerful Bell Ringers That Focus Students Quickly

If you’re seeking bell ringers to use in your high school, middle school, or even elementary classroom, this post is for you.

Here you will find the best examples of bell ringers, and they’re all free!

What Are Bell Ringers In Education?

Bell ringers, also known as bell work, are short tasks that students complete upon arriving to class.

These activities, which come in many forms, transition students into academic mode.

This time allows the teacher to perform quick administrative duties such as taking attendance or collecting papers from the previous lesson.

No matter the subject you teach, grab and maintain students’ attention early by utilizing these powerful bell ringers.

List of Bell Ringers That Focus Students Fast

Following you will find bell ringers that can be modified for math, ELA, science, and social studies classrooms.

1. Reader Response Journals

This is a simple, yet effective bell ringer.

Ask students to respond to a text selection that relates to a current unit of study.

They will record answers in a response journal, notebook, or Google Document.

For question ideas, see this list of reader response questions and comprehension questions that can be used with any book.

2. Daily Journal Writing Prompts

Daily journal writing prompts work well as growth mindset bell ringers.

These type of writing prompts tend to focus on self-development which means that they will work well for all subject areas.

If you want to keep things simple, try a few of these easy bell ringer writing prompts.

3. Brainstorming Words

Brainstorming Words is one of the most engaging bell ringer activities.

To do this activity, provide students with a word.

As an example … alligator.

Now students must brainstorm (and jot down) as many 2-letter, 3-letter, 4-letter, 5-letter, 6-letter, 7-letter, and 8-letter words as possible using that word.

How many words do they come up with?

4. Interpreting Famous Quotes

Promote critical thinking skills by giving students a famous quote to interpret.


  • “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
  • “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Emerson
  • “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

5. Exit Ticket Questions or Prompts

Why not use the beginning of class to informally assess what students “took away” from the previous lesson?

You can do this by using exit ticket questions and prompts – just rename them “entry” slips.

6. Bell Ringer Questions

Keep things simple by giving a bell ringer question each day.

7. Top 5 or Top 10 Lists

In general, students love making lists so this bell ringer activity will focus them fast.

Give students a theme or topic such as Winter games, Thanksgiving, movies, songs, books, etc.

Then ask them to create a Top 5 or Top 10 List that relates to that topic.

  • Example 1: Topic = math skills; Write the top 10 math skills you’ll need in the real world.
  • Example 2: Topic = school rules; What are the top 5 most important school rules?
  • Example 3: Topic = movies; Name the top 10 funniest movies.

8. Task Cards

Once students reach the 6th grade, the use of task cards becomes less frequent.

However, these versatile exercises make great bell ringer activities in the middle and high school grades.

Task cards can focus on any skill or concept such as problem-solving, writing, grammar, etc.

The possibilities are endless.

Simply print, and distribute to students as they arrive to class. You could also project one on the board for students to answer.

9. Guess the Covered Word

Especially if you’re an ELA teacher, keep this bell ringer in your collection of bell work ideas.

It’s just that fantastic!

Guess the Covered Word is a vocabulary and reading comprehension activity that requires students to figure out unknown words using context clues.

To use as a bell ringer, take a page selection (ideally from a current unit of study), and cover a few key terms.

Project it on a screen. Now students read the text and try to figure out the words that are covered.

See an example of Guess the Covered Word.

10. Student Questionnaire

To get to know students at the beginning of the school year or to informally assess how students feel about their academic progress, use questionnaires as bell work.

Give the questionnaire in PDF format or using Google Forms.

11. Fun Bell Ringers

Add fun to your collection of bell ringers by incorporating a few digital bell ringer activities.

These exciting tasks take students’ focus and attention to new levels!

12. Silent Reading

Don’t underestimate the power of silent reading.

Request that students begin reading a text selection (chosen by you or them) upon entering the classroom.

Final Thoughts

Bell ringers are key components of a solid classroom management plan. Now you have some great bell ringer ideas to try with students.

Say goodbye to beginning-of-class distractions!