15 Powerful Bell Ringers That Focus Students Quickly

The first few minutes of class sets the tone for the entire learning experience.

Those crucial moments at the beginning of the class are when teachers have the opportunity to grab students’ attention, ignite their curiosity, and create an atmosphere of enthusiasm for learning.

What Are Bell Ringers In Education?

Bell ringers are short, dynamic activities designed to captivate students from the moment they step into the classroom.

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.

Whether you’re an experienced teacher or just starting your teaching journey, incorporating these into your daily routine can be a game-changer in creating an active and positive learning environment.

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

The activities shared here are not only enjoyable but also purposeful, as they can be used to review previously covered material, introduce new concepts, spark discussions, or simply get the creative juices flowing.

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. Play a Bell Ringer Game.

Why not play a quick game that reviews previously taught concepts or vocabulary?

This doesn’t need to be anything complicated or fancy.

You could play a matching game with vocabulary terms and definitions or a quick round of Jeopardy with review questions.

2. Journal.

Journaling allows students to express their ideas and thoughts. Furthermore, it helps them to improve their communication skills.

Consider incorporating daily journal writing prompts as growth mindset bell ringers.

These types of writing prompts 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.

Alternatively, you could provide students with a prompt related to a current unit of study and have them generate a brief response.

3. Brainstorm 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?

Alternatively, you could pose a question related to a current unit of study and have students brainstorm possible ideas, solutions, and/or approaches.

Related Content: Free Printable Bell Ringers

4. Interpret Quotes.

Encourage critical thinking 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

Once students have had an opportunity to record their interpretations, have them share their thoughts with the rest of the class.

This is a great time for them to discuss how their interpretations compare to others.

5. Answer 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 posing an exit ticket question and prompt (simply rename it an “entry” slip), and asking students to jot down their responses.

6. Utilize Bell Ringer Questions.

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

Display a bell ringer question on the board or projector and ask students to respond to it in their journals.

Use this as an opportunity to review a previously taught concept.

7. Make 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, or a topic from a current unit of study.

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. Practice With Task Cards.

Once students reach a certain 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. Play 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. Distribute a 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. Incorporate Fun Bell Ringers.

Add fun to your collection of bell ringers by incorporating a few fun bell ringer activities that will keep students fully engaged and ready to learn.

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

12. Assign 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.

A section or chapter of a book works well as do non-fiction texts with lots of text features.

The goal is to spark rich discussions and encourage the involvement of students from all ability levels.

The assigned reading can be from a physical or digital book version.

13. Practice Vocabulary.

Write a word on the board (ideally related to a current unit of study) and ask students to write a definition, synonym, or antonym for the word.

Alternatively, you could provide a sentence with the word and ask students to use context clues to determine its meaning.

14. Discuss Current Events.

Especially for older students, staying up-to-date with current events is a great way to gain knowledge in real time.

Share a news article or video clip related to the current event and ask students to react by sharing their thoughts and feelings.

15. Respond to Questions.

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.

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!