5 Tips for Better Social Studies Bellringers

As is the case with all of our hat tricks, Social Studies bellringers tend to get a little tired and predictable after a while.  Also called warm-ups, bellringers are supposed to get our students excited about learning, but they frequently result in moans and groans instead of enthusiasm for the topic of the day.  In reflecting on my own teaching practices, I’ve been seriously reconsidering how I implement bellringers in my classroom.

Here are 5 simple tips and tricks to revitalize your daily bellringers:

Tips for Better Bellringers

Tips for Better Bellringers

1.  Small groups!  I have my classroom divided into small groups called “pods”.  Occasionally, I’ll ask students to complete their bellringer with the people sitting around them.  On quiz days, I’ll frequently have the students work together to make a list of 5 things they think will be on the quiz and to review those things with their pods. There is another great group review idea in bellringer format in an article by Kate Petty on the website www.thetechclassroom.com. I think this type of activity is especially important with middle school students who are wired for social interaction but don’t have a lot of opportunities for it during the school day.

2.  GAMES!  Sometimes kids just need to unwind and embrace silliness.  I have a friend and co-worker (Robin Simmons) who is famous for her use of silly games as bellringers.  One day last year, she asked all of her students take their shoes off and had a team competition to see which group could build the tallest tower out of just their shoes.  There was no learning involved, but I can guarantee that the occasional use of activities like this will cause students to look forward to your class.  The kids talked about it for weeks.  I asked Robin for the source of her inspiration and she referred me to Kagan Publishing’s website and specifically, their book “Silly Sports and Goofy Games.”  She also mentioned a guy named Mark Collard who has his own channel on youtube.com.

3.  Media!  Videos and music are great ways to get students’ attention.  I have a whole playlist of songs from the American Revolution and the Civil War that I love to use to start discussions.  History.com has a short video that features “This Day in History” events. This  Digital History website features a multitude of resources from political cartoons to images and maps that could be incorporated into a bellringer.

4.  Brain Teaser!  Students need more practice with lateral thinking! Using puzzles to help students learn to think outside of the box can help them become better problem solvers and increase their interest in school.  Discovery Education has a great website with all types of Brain Boosters you can use to really get those wheels turning.  I love using Google Earth in my Social Studies classroom and there are several websitse that feature interesting or significant images from outer space.  You should check out twistedsifter.com’s list of 50 interesting things seen from space or DailyTekk.com’s list of 100 Grand Landmarks as seen from Google Earth.  Project one of these dandy images and have the students try to figure out what it is, where it is or how it’s significant to the lesson that day.

5.  Quotes/Excerpts!  I simply love using quotes from famous people in bellringers.  Americans have said some really inspiring and also some really dumb things throughout the years that are great for stirring up young brains for learning.  Typically, I ask students to discuss the meaning of the quote, but will sometimes ask them who they think said it or what year it was said.

Looking for some sample bellringers?  I’ve posted a few on my bellringers page that you are free to use!

*** Special thanks to a great site – Ringing in Learning for sharing this article!


  1. 3. Media! Videos and music are great ways to get students’ attention. I have a whole playlist of songs from the American Revolution and the Civil War that I love to use to start discussions.

    Would you be willing to share the names of the songs you play? I love the idea, and I play many as well. It’s nice to see other titles though.

    • Thanks for the request! I’ll write a post soon that gives more ideas for playlists that could be used for Social Studies. One of my favorite ideas is to use the soundtrack from The Pirates of The Caribbean the week we study European Exploration. It just sounds fun and exciting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *