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In this lesson we will look at what a bell ringer is and why bell ringers are helpful to use in biology classrooms. We will also discuss several types of bell ringers that would be appropriate for a biology class.

Bell Ringers for Biology

There are so many things a teacher needs to do at the beginning of class – take attendance, talk to students who were absent, answer homework questions, monitor the hallways, and make connections with students. A bell ringer can help students prepare and focus for class while the teacher accomplishes everything she needs to at the start of the period.Bell ringer activities are short activities that students do as soon as they enter the room.

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It can help to stick with a routine bell ringer system so that students do not need to ask many questions and teachers can complete their tasks. For example, maybe students have to pick up a sheet of paper when they walk in class, or maybe the bell ringer is on the chalkboard or whiteboard. Now let’s look at the variety of bell ringers you might use.

Review Questions

The most common type of bell ringer for any subject is to ask questions that review material you have recently covered.

It is best to order the questions from simpler to more complex. This allows struggling students to complete the first few questions independently without needing teacher assistance, but still provides a challenge to keep the above average students engaged with the assignment.

Prior Knowledge Questions

Students enter the classroom with some prior knowledge on most subjects covered in biology. Asking questions such as ‘write down everything you already know about photosynthesis’ activates that prior knowledge and helps students focus on the topic for that day’s lesson.

Gather Lab Supplies

Getting supplies prepared can take up valuable class time. Given clear written instructions and labels, students could gather the supplies they need for the day’s lab prior to class starting. This bell ringer activity should only be used after students are familiar with lab procedures and lab equipment safety techniques.

Students can gather beakers, flasks and other laboratory materials as a bell ringer

Read Lab Directions

Students tend to like to start labs before they have read all of the lab directions, which lead to careless mistakes during the activity. Having students read through the directions on the lab sheet can make explaining the lab to students quicker when class starts, and the activity can begin sooner.

Nature of Science and Scientific Method

Every year teachers begin science by reviewing the scientific method and nature of science, yet basic skill such as measuring, reading a graph, and analyzing data tend to be a recurring struggle for many students. Providing extra practice with these basic scientific skills throughout the year can help reinforce weaker areas.

Logic Puzzles

Science is based on logical thinking. However, teachers can’t usually devote class time to developing logical thinking skills in students due to the large amount of content that must be covered. Using logic puzzles that are either teacher-created or found online is a fun way to start the class and get students’ brains working.

Scientist of the Day

Have students read an article and answer questions about a famous scientist or experiment that provided a major breakthrough in a certain field of study. The articles could be teacher-written or found online. It would be especially relevant if the articles were about scientists who studied in the same area as the current area of study.

For example, articles about James Watson and Francis Crick could be used when studying DNA structure.

Lesson Review

Bell ringers are excellent ways to activate students’ minds for the class. They provide a way to keep students engaged and learning while teachers handle the administrative duties that are necessary at the start of class. Stick to a predictable bell ringer routine so that students are able to accomplish the task without teacher involvement.


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