Bell ringer

I’m a creature of habit. That is what I’ve told my students for the past 10 years. Each day, with the exception of test days started the same way. The students would answer the bell ringer question on the front board and take out the listed supplies that was also projected. The question would either review material previously learned or preview material we would learn that day. I would play a song that connected to the lesson as they answered the question. I shared my playlist ideas here. As the music played I would take attendance and check in with students. After the song finished we would go over the agenda for the day. Once that was done the past couple of years I had a student share their reading minute. I explained that here.

After a week or two the students quickly got into a routine. The first 5 minutes could play out even if I wasn’t there. Yet, I wondered if this was the most effective use of those precious 41 minutes I have each period. Yes, the questions reviewed or previewed course work. Yes, it allowed me to take attendance and quickly check in with students. Yes, it allowed me to incorporate music and get the students settled. But, could the time be used to build in more effective instruction?

I’ve thought about this more and plan to change my routine when school resumes in August. Each day I will have a more purposeful start to class. The schedule that I’ve drafted for August is:

Monday– 10 minutes of current events silent reading

Tuesday– map/graph/infographic analysis

Wednesday– Vocab work

Thursday– 10 minutes of current events silent reading

Friday– Photo or political cartoon analysis, video analysis, listening skills using podcast

I would always allow for flexibility to change to build in a simulation or another hook if that would make that day’s lesson more effective. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I could still use my music while students answered the questions. Also, I could also choose to do lyric analysis some days or a book talk that connects with our course on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays too.

With this change I feel I can build in more meaningful instruction to these first few minutes of class. I’ve taught map, graph, infographic, photo, political cartoon and video analysis in the past, yet this new set up would make sure that they would have recurrent practice with this type of analysis all year long as opposed to when it came up naturally within our course work. I could build in specific strategies to  tackle these areas and give students repetitive practice using these strategies. My hope is that this format will lend itself to more genuine instruction and practice as opposed to something more than something to get kids seated and thinking while I take attendance.

In regards to current events silent reading, I truly feel the most effective change I made in my LA instruction when it came to reading was guaranteeing 10-15 minutes of silent reading each and every day. Students read more, became better readers, and many changed their attitudes about reading. I want my students to be well informed citizens and up to date on current events so I should be building in that time to my class. I could also use this as a spring board for their own inquiry as well as a way to incorporate more activities connected to our Fantasy Geopolitics game. I shared some of the current events resources I use with my students in this post.

How do you start your class each day? What strategies or ideas do you suggest that I build into my first 5 minute routine?





7 thoughts on “Rethinking the First 5 Minutes of Class

  1. Thank you for sharing! I’m a first year teacher (starting in the Fall) in an ELA/History classroom (we are a very small school) and this post is making me think about how I want to set up my classroom routines!


  2. Keep track of CNN student news and show relevant programs.
    I often have students complete a 3-2-1 chart with the episode.
    CNN heroes is also a neat addition to regular news topics.


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