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Teacher Toolbox: Bell Ringer Activities

Submitted by: Melissa Myers, Associate Head of School


A disclaimer: At first read, this blog post may seem utterly pointless.  It’s not. It’s about Bell Ringers--teaching exercises designed to encourage students (and their brains) to transition smoothly into the start of class. We train all of our teachers to use Bell Ringers as a best practice.  They’re not only fun; they also work.

I’m a fan of lateral thinking and logic puzzles. Here’s an example: A man is returning from Switzerland by train. If he had been in a non-smoking car he would have died. What happened? I’m not telling you the answer, but I totally know it.

Because this blog is a week overdue, I felt that I should put in a bit of extra energy and really dig deep into the interwebs to come up with the coolest Bell Ringer activities I could find. This blog post took me about 3 hours to write because, it turns out, the internet is really just something to get sucked into when your blog post is a week overdue.

Below is a fairly comprehensive list of truly engaging and educational games, interactive modules, and activities that many of our teachers are already using with your kids.  (There are also a few ridiculous time-suckers in here for those of you who are just reading this blog in an attempt to distract yourself from real responsibilities. You are welcome.)

Breakout Bell Ringers

BreakoutEDU offers access to hundreds of digital games in over 20 different subject matter areas. It’s also an open-source platform, so your kids can spend 37 hours designing a game instead of doing their English homework. Or you can request that a Breakout engineer design a game for you because they’re probably actually paid to do that.

Below are a few examples of user-generated games:
Save the Uber Driver

The Secret Stockbroker Society

Google Doodle Bell Ringers

Google Doodles are more than just fun changes to the original Google logo; many Doodles are interactive educational modules or games that you can play in under 5 minutes or for 5 hours depending on how addictive your personality is.

Oskar Fischinger - He was a digital animator, film-maker, painter and visual composer. This Doodle gives users an opportunity to experiment with visual music composition.

44th Anniversary of the Birth of Hip Hop - Fab Five Freddy leads users through an interactive history of Hip Hop and a tutorial for creating your own unique tracks using virtual turntables and musical samples.  I spent over an hour making a Polka-inspired beat that my husband, a classically-trained musician, declared was, “Weird but mostly lame.”

Robert Moog’s 78th Birthday - Play with the original Moog synthesizer and pretend that you’re Ray Manzarik. If you’re back to reading this blog yet, congratulations on your discovery of that utterly useless website.

Valentine’s Day and George Ferris’ 154th Birthday - Romance and amusement parks go hand in hand in this interactive, spin-the-wheel mashup that depicts the love stories behind some unlikely pairs of creatures. Plus, you’ll learn about George Ferris. And there’s probably Physics lesson in there somewhere.

Magic Cat Academy - This Doodle includes the word “academy” so it’s definitely educational.

Logical Bell Ringers

A Google a Day- The nerds at Google come up with a question like, "An 11-foot bird lives less than two miles from 30.891383,-102.885032. What's his name?" and we, non-nerd Google employees (unless you are actually a nerdy Google employee) are tasked to deconstruct and answer these questions. The puzzles are hard but incredibly engaging.  

Sporcle - Sean McManis is the Sporcle Master.

Brain Games from NatGeo - Pretty much what you think they are.

How Stuff Works - Ever wonder what Neanderthals ate for dinner? Want to know if redheads are really going extinct?  How about what happens if you don’t poop for 47 days?  Find all the answers here.

Utterly Illogical Bell Ringers

These absurd sites are actually one of my favorite Bell Ringer activities. Try this experiment at home: The next time you are trying to get your son or daughter to take their head out of Snapchat and pay attention to you, just pull up Taco Spin on your phone and watch the magic happen.

The Useless Web - It’s a simple question: “Want to go to a useless website?”  You’ll want to click the “Please” button because a (probably) complex algorithm will direct you to, well, a really useless website. Most of them are along the lines of Taco Spinner and Ray Manzarek quotes.

Lamafont - Because Ed will eventually stop thinking the emails I compose entirely in Zapf Dingbat are funny.

Here is Today - One is still what one is going to cease to be and already what one is going to become.

Find the Invisible Cow - Yep.

A Useful Resource That I Found Online That I Don’t Really Know What to Do With But It Seems Cool

Canva - This is just a really great website to help teachers or humans who are colorblind, fashionblind, and generally tasteless in the area of graphic design, make stuff look really professional and cool.  I should have used it for this blog post, but I spent most of my Sunday morning clicking a “Please” button.