Bellringers: Stress-Free Ideas for the World Language Classroom

September 26, 2017 admin

Bellringers. I think there are some magic teachers who’ve found a way to start class without them. If that’s you, awesome!

For the rest of us, bellringers are a must while we manage attendance, tardies, and questions.

(Profe, I’ll be gone next week– can you give me all the work I’ll miss? The end of the quarter is tomorrow, and I was wondering if I could do some extra credit. Profe, I did my homework, but I left it at home, but I’ve got a picture of it my mom just sent me…)  You know.

With a good morning routine, students know you are ready and expect them to get busy, right away. Today, I have some tips for streamlining the process and creating meaningful bellringers.

First off, I know I’m not interested another stack of papers to grade (who is??). So I’ve mainly gathered input-focused tasks. These bellringers focus on absorption of the language, with only a minimal response required. Student attention is high in those first 5-10 minutes: let’s get compelling language going the minute they walk in the door.
(Full disclosure: I teach to proficiency, through comprehensible input, and don’t emphasize explicit grammar much. This post reflects that!)

Effective Bellringers for Spanish Class

1. Designate a theme for each day of the week.

Lectura lunes (reading)
Motivación martes (something inspirational)
música miércoles (listen to an authentic song)
Jaja jueves (start with a joke or meme)
baile viernes (dance party!)

I first heard about baile viernes and música miércoles from Mis Clases Locas. Since then many teachers have adapted other themes (Leer lunes, Arte martes, Miau miércoles, Jugar jueves, Viaje viernes, Video viernes, etc.) If the Spanglish terms bother you, switch to something like “lunes de lectura.” Pick your favorites and get a routine going!

2. SSR (Silent Sustained Reading), or FVR (Free Voluntary Reading).

Build up a classroom library, and start off the day with some good reading. This one is totally differentiated, choice-directed, and student-driven. The students grab their books as they come in, and settle down to read for 5-10 minutes. Ideally the teacher is reading along with the students, though I rarely managed this.

used popsicle sticks to randomly call on a few students to tell something–
anything– from what they read. I recommend against too many assignments or journaling after SSR. Keep it as pleasurable as possible, and read this Map to Transitioning Your Class to FVR for more info.

3. Draw.


There are so many possibilities here! Put a paragraph on the board. They draw it, with as many details as they can. Drawing is therapeutic and low-pressure, and causes them to read closely.

Make this hilarious by using a picture from Awkward Family Photos, for example. Type a description from the picture. The students read and then draw it. Then show them the original picture, and everyone can have a good laugh comparing theirs to the original. Then, you describe the picture back to them, getting in even more input! (Idea credit: I think Amy Marshall or Annabelle Allen?)

4. Correct the errors. 

Post a story or paragraph with just a few small errors. The students read and note the errors (and correct them, if possible). They’re still getting language in context and it’s a good chance to pinpoint problem areas with accuracy.

5. Guess who/ Guess what.

Write a description (perhaps rotate through very flattering descriptions of students in the class), and the students guess who or what it is.

6. Answer a question.

Scaffold the questions to your students’ levels: a series of yes/no, or either/or questions, personal questions to prep for a discussion later, open-ended or with one-word answers.

I recommend using open-ended questions sparingly if you have accuracy in mind– you’ll end up with lots of grading later!

7. Music. 

Just let them listen and take it in, or provide something like a cloze line activity. Or, pick a few key phrases from the song and have them posted, in the form of Draw, Listen, Check. The students copy or draw them, listen to the song, and make a check mark each time they hear it. For fun, see who got the closest numbers.

8. Horizontal conjugation.

Post a short story or paragraph. The students copy it, switching the point of view (ie, re-write the story from the 1st-person perspective).

9. Prep a bingo board. 

This one might take a few classes. Hand out blank grids (5×5 works well), and have students illustrate phrases or words that are projected onto the board. Perhaps save it for a Friday game day– if anyone doesn’t finish in time, they have to spend the game time doing so!

10. Give choice in responses. 

Take a text the class is working with (lyrics, story, novel, etc, #authres, etc.) Give the students a choice board like this free one, and they can respond however they wish. You copy and paste a relevant text, project it onto the board, and done!

11. Finish-the-sentence or story. 

Let the students add a twist ending to a story, change a funny detail, or personalize a mostly-written sentence (Cuando estoy solo/a, me gusta ______. Mi película favorita se llama _____.) If you collect these when they’re finished, it can be fun to read a couple out loud and have the class guess who wrote it.

Tips for Streamlining Bellringers  

1. Use a grid for recording bellringer

Instead of having little sheets of paper for each day, have the students respond on a paper that can be collected every one or two weeks. I stapled ours into our interactive notebooks, which made my life so
much easier. I could see at-a-glance that they were keeping up with the
work (or not). I am flexible about these– if one block isn’t enough space, they can use two.

2. Avoid Quagmire Tasks.

Output-focused tasks are easy to come up with, but they can take a lot of time to go over. “Write 3 sentences about yourself,” for example.

If you are hoping to spark discussion later, or develop a fluid writing voice, no problem, and no need to check answers as a class. Then the task is just a piece of the overall lesson.

If you are trying to “practice” writing an accurate paragraph, you might be trying to practice “soy.” “estoy,” and “tengo.” Students who can already write a perfect paragraph won’t really need the practice. But students who are struggling will probably just write with errors, and will need more then a 1-minute talk after the bellringer to learn to use those verbs correctly.

3. Keep a collection of popsicle sticks handy.

Draw a few names to check work right after the bellringer, to give a measure of random accountability and a quick way to go over everything as a class.

4. Keep Grades to a Minimum.

This obviously depends on your class situation. If possible, only count it as a completion grade or a formative grade. Think of it as an indication for YOU of how much they know, not a way to penalize what they don’t.

Some teachers have to be very strict about classroom work, of course and feel that their students would take advantage of work that has no grade attached. You know your classroom best!!




I’d love to hear your ideas! Comment below if you’ve got something that’s working well for you.







  • Margaret March 6, 2018 at 10:49 am

    As always,,,,,,,,,,,mil gracias! I needed something fresh and new.

  • Chelsea May 9, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Hi! Thanks for this post. Question – for #2 on streamlining bellwork, how would you describe input vs output tasks? I'm new and super confused and just trying to make it! I notice some of my work becoming more daunting then helpful- I'm trying to stay away from grammar, but it's easy to fall back on it.

  • SraTice June 2, 2018 at 12:14 am

    I use the grid but not every day. I only collect and grade when full (seriously twice a year). I also switched to index cards with names so that I can tally how well the student responds. Tally for a solid response, dash for weak, 0 unable to respond. At end of quarter I can convert that into a grade and move into another quarter. Often this is used to share bell ringer responses. Great way to track with minimal effort on my end.

  • Unknown September 2, 2019 at 11:35 pm

    Great ideas. Thank you!

  • Laura Bush March 24, 2020 at 7:50 pm

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