3 Successful Bell Ringers for Your Classroom

As my middle school students trickle into my art room each day, I like to get them engaged in an activity right off the bat. Through trial and error over the years, I have come up with some ways to hook students immediately and ensure a successful class transition as well as decreased classroom management issues.

Here are my top three processes for “bell ringer” work.

1. Drawing Challenges

At the start of a quarter or semester, try giving students a list of numbered daily drawing challenges. Students will soon get into a routine of sitting down and working quietly for the first 10 minutes on the day’s challenge. Letting students choose from a variety of dry mediums is a great way to build in choice. At the end of a few weeks, students will have a visual collection of ideas to use as starting points for their future artwork. Check out our list of 100 Sketchbook Prompts to get your own list going

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2. Continuous Extra Project

Try using an additional, ongoing project as a daily bell ringer. One project my middle school students have enjoyed is a Pen Doodle. Students are asked to use an entire ink pen in one drawing on one sheet of paper. Not only does this encourage an immense amount of detail in their work, but it also helps students focus their attention.

3. “smART” Cards

Teaching vocabulary doesn’t have to feel mundane. One way to spice it up is with “smART” cards–mixed media vocab cards. At the beginning of each class, have students create one card. In addition to including the word and definition, students could include things like a drawn example or a real-world example they cut out of a magazine. Simple index cards held together by book rings work well. Use the vocab cards when writing artist statements or during other writing activities. Try an app like Quizlet for a digital version of this process.

No matter how you begin class each day, consider using a bell ringer routine for a smooth transition and little wasted class time. You’ll see the benefits of getting your students engaged right away with a routine that reinforces class concepts.

What kind of bell ringers do you do in your room? 

Share your ideas in the comments below!

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Tracy Hare

Tracy Hare, a middle school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She strives to deepen students’ 21st-century skills by encouraging them to practice critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills.

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