7 Reasons to use Bell Ringers in High School Math Classes

I’ve used bell ringers (sometimes called Do Nows or Warm-ups) my entire teaching career until the pandemic. For over a year, I quit using them. I was juggling too much to add bell ringers to the mix, but I’m happy to say that I’m using them again. I debated over whether to start using them because I do have a few cons that bother me.

One of my cons for using bell ringers is that it requires a transition from one task to another and sometimes transitions in a classroom are hard to deal with. Another con is that you have to think of what you want your bell ringer to be and that requires time which we as teachers have very little time.

The pros far outweigh the cons when it comes to bell ringers. I have 7 reasons why I feel like bell ringers are worth the struggle. It makes sense to me to continue using them because of what bell ringers provide.

  • #1 – Get the students busy from the start! As a teacher, the beginning of class is a chaotic time. We need to get the students settled and do attendance. If students are in a routine to come into the class and get started on the bell ringer, then the chaos is limited and the teacher has time to get organized.
  • #2 – Use bell ringers to recycle information or to review information. Maybe you want to review the first grading period during the second grading period using bell ringers. I’ve learned that 3 or 4 problems is the limit. A quick way to create something is to use material that you were not able to use during the first grading period. You might have run out of time to do a worksheet or maybe you did not get to go as deep as you wanted. Divide that worksheet into days and give it to your students at the beginning of the week. Students get the worksheet out at the start of class each day and work on it. (I have my students tape everything into their journal so they do not lose it.)
  • #3 – Use bell ringers as a quick check to find out what students know. For instance, before a lesson on the properties of exponents, you decide to see if students remember how to use integer operations or if they remember that 5^3 really means 5*5*5. Before any lesson, think about what might cause some issues. Do not assume that students remember their math from past grades. Give them some problems and see what they remember. This will guide you to take a moment to reteach some concepts before you get started.
  • #4 – Bell ringers can simply be a way to get your students thinking or “get the wheels turning” as they say. Some teachers call bell ringers warm ups. That’s a good name! Before you run, don’t you warm up. You want to get the blood flowing and the muscles stretched. The brain is no different. It’s great to have students focused and thinking before you begin a lesson.
  • #5 – This reason is related to #4 above… Use bell ringers as a lesson opener. To get the “wheels turning” use a problem to spark interest in the topic you are about to teach. Real-life problems are a great thing to use. It really doesn’t have to be anything but a picture or a simple question. For instance, before a quadratic lesson you could have a picture of a football player throwing a pass. You could ask students to predict if the throw is accurate or how many yards the ball will travel. The great thing about this kind of question is that anyone can answer it. All kids are on an equal playing field. All students can be successful on these types of questions.
  • #6 – Here’s a biggie… Use bell ringers to fill in gaps. Welp, we all know how important that is at this time. Think about the students you teach. What’s missing in their learning. What did they NOT learn the past few years that you can practice through bell ringers? You could literally pull material from the previous grade level and reteach it. If your state has standardized testing, go pull from old tests. You could even go back a couple of grade levels. Think of the good this would do!
  • #7 – Use bell ringers to prepare students for standardized tests. Not all math teachers think about preparing students for college entrance exams or college placement exams. Your students will be taking tests such as the ACT, SAT, PSAT, TSI or ACCUPLACER. Why not give them a taste of what they will see on these tests? Students are not familiar with the questioning used on these types of tests. What a great service you would be doing for your students if you helped prepare them for what they might see on college entrance exams.

I hope I’ve given you some ideas. To me, bell ringers are another learning opportunity. To provide the best thing for your students, you need to think about your particular groups. My Algebra students need something different than my Geometry students most of the time. The only time that I may give them the same bell ringers is if I’m in the mode of preparing them for the TSI or PSAT.

My biggest concern for my Geometry students is how much Algebra they lost last year. I created an Algebra bell ringer resource just for them. When I’m doing these bell ringers with them, I’ll ask them to raise their hand if they remember certain things. It’s terribly disappointing how little they learned last year. I’ll link this resource below if you are interested, but here is a freebie related to those bell ringers. Each day there are four problems. I work two with them and then they do two on their own.

Your next question might be, should you grade bell ringers? I usually grade on completion. I have students keep the bell ringers in their journals, so sometimes during a journal check, I might refer back to certain bell ringers and ask them questions about them.

I’ve attached some of my bell ringers below that are in my TpT store. Half the battle is having time to create them. Remember, bell ringers do not have to be something you create. It can be an old worksheet that you didn’t get to or it can be review material that you have. I’ve used my TSI material a lot as bell ringers. I’ll pull a page out of a lesson and it will become my bell ringers for the week. The great thing about TSI or ACCUPLACER material is that it covers a variety of content that students should know from past math classes.

Here’s what I’m currently using with my Geometry Classes:

These next two resources are for college entrance exams:

I use any of my TSI resources to pull from for various reasons. I recently pulled from this activity for my Algebra class bell ringers to help recycle previous concepts:

I have all of my bell ringers including in one bundle so you can save:

If you like my ideas and tips, then consider joining my email list. If you chose to do that, then you will receive a free exponential function hands-on activity. Join Now!

Good luck with your bell ringers. If you are not on board, I understand. I have my reservations at times too. You need to do what is best for your situation.

Please follow me at my TpT Store so that you know when I upload new resources. All my new resources are 50% off for 24 hours.

Get Your Math Students Engaged!

How is it going in your classroom? If it seems that your students are not paying attention and just not getting the concepts you are delivering, could it be that you are not engaging them? When school really gets going and you are super busy, it seems like we go into survival mode. The way we survive is lecturing because we really don’t have time to plan and be creative. I’m going to give you some ideas that turn a dull boring lesson into an engaging lesson without much prep.

Here are 5 Easy Ideas:

1) Get the dry erase boards out and dust them off! Kids love to draw on the boards, so give them equations to solve, equations to graph or shapes to draw. Maybe you had a worksheet planned. Don’t do it the traditional way, instead call out the problems and let them work them on the board then raise the board up to show you. You can make corrections and help kids that are struggling. You can have students show their partner and talk about which person may or may not be correct. Dry erase boards are a savior for me. I get them out anytime I feel like I have a boring lesson and it really spruces it up. 
2) Find a related Desmos lesson. Desmos is easy to use and can be something quick to search and find quick lessons or activities for your students. If you are teaching exponential functions soon, I have a good activity from Desmos that I created. I would say to do this with Algebra 2 rather than Algebra 1. It’s called “The Towers“. I love the Tower of Hanoi and I use it in my Exponential Functions Stations
3) Another quick way to gain interest in note taking is make the notes colorful or turn it into a graphic organizer. If you have 4 things the students need to know, then create a paper folding graphic where students write on the outside 4 flaps and they open to reveal answers, definitions or a diagram. 
Here’s two examples of using colored pencils or using a foldable:

4) Let the students partner up and go to a spot on the board or use poster paper. Ask them to write everything they know about a topic. I recently did this and the students did not realize how much they actually knew. I kept adding stuff and reminding them of a few things along the way. Before they knew it, they had a ton of concepts on the board. 
5) Turn the lecture into a game. One way is to make it a Bingo Game. Create a list of things you know you will be saying that day and put it on the board. The students will be given a blank bingo card and can write the words randomly into the boxes. As they hear you say the phrase or word, they cross off that box. If they bingo, you will take off a couple of problems on the homework to shorten the assignment. 

If you look up from a lecture and you have kids falling asleep or looking at their phones, you know you’ve got to do something to change the dynamics of the class. Try implementing one or two of these ideas in the next few weeks and let me know how it goes!

Parallel Lines, Perpendicular Lines and Transversals

Why are parallel lines, perpendicular lines and transversals so important in Geometry? Have you thought about it? Why is this taught early in the geometry curriculum? Geometry is the study of shapes. How are shapes made? Yep, with lines or line segments to be more exact.

The whole time I’m teaching students about parallel lines and transversals, I’m constantly saying that this idea will return when we are dealing with future topics. One of my activities in fact, puts the converse of the postulates and theorems learned during this time into perspective. I ask the students to draw over the segments that make up the shapes to notice how parallel lines and transversals are involved. See below:

The resource with the above worksheet has a ton of hands-on activities. Students measure angles and discover which types of angles are congruent and which types of angles are supplementary. Parallel Lines and Transversals {with Project} is the name of this activity. It has a ton of engaging worksheets, notes, proofs and comes with a project and a short quiz.

Before I give my quiz over this lesson, I have the students do a Boom Card review. If you know me, then you know I love Boom Learning. This activity has 20 problems and students can redo them as many times as you will allow. It’s a great way to reinforce learning.

After the project, I specifically focusing on parallel and perpendicular lines. I love this lesson and the one over parallel lines and transversals so much because it gives me insight into the algebra skills of my students. After the transversal lesson, I have a good idea of who struggles solving equations. After the parallel and perpendicular lesson, I have a good idea on who struggles with the following major algebra concepts:

  • graphing
  • solving for y and understanding slope-intercept form
  • slope
  • using the slope formula,
  • plugging into point slope-form

It’s nice to help students with their algebra skills, but as far as geometry goes, why do they need to know when lines are parallel and perpendicular? The answer is the same as previous…shapes. This time we are learning about lines on a coordinate grid. If we notice lines are parallel or perpendicular, then in future lessons, we will know if a shape is a parallelogram, rectangle, square or even a right triangle. This Parallel Lines and Perpendicular Lines lesson could be used in an algebra class or a geometry class but I love how these two contents come together in this lesson!

I have a set of Boom Cards for this lesson too that I call: Parallel, Perpendicular or Neither?

This activity usually falls around Halloween for me, so I’ve also created a Halloween activity that is super fun. It comes without the Halloween theme if you prefer. It’s a nice way to reinforce this learning!

This unit is so important because it plants the foundation for many future topics. I think that it is so important that we as teachers understand where topics are headed. Sometimes, it is not related to anything else in our subject, but it needs to be taught for future years. If you have only taught Algebra or Geometry, I highly suggest that you reach out to your principal and ask to teach Algebra 2 and Pre-Cal and even Calculus if you get a chance. It is eye-opening! Algebra and Geometry are so important in these other subjects. I learn new things and how they are applied all the time. I see things that I teach my students right now and how useful they are in my son’s college engineering classes. It’s exciting to see how important our teaching really is.

If you are interested in all of these resources in one bundle, click on the picture below. Thank you for all you do and have a great school year!

Algebra STAAR Review Plan For Algebra and Geometry Teachers

***Please read further, but I recently found out that students that took Algebra and passed in the 2019-2020 school year are exempt from ever taking the STAAR test. When I wrote this, I did not know that. Here it is on the TEA website:

In waiving the required performance on academic assessments under TEC, §28.025(c) and §39.025(a) for spring 2020, the following applies: If a student is on schedule to complete instruction in the entire curriculum in spring 2020 for a course that has a corresponding STAAR EOC assessment, the student is not required to pass that specific test to fulfill graduation requirements. If a student is on schedule to complete graduation requirements in spring 2020 but does not have the opportunity to retake a STAAR EOC assessment prior to graduation, the student is not required to pass that specific test to fulfill graduation requirements but will need to complete the IGC process. For students graduating in future years but taking one of the five courses with a corresponding STAAR EOC assessment this year, those students will not be responsible for meeting that EOC assessment graduation requirement if they earn course credit this year.

This changes my thinking, but I am going to incorporate as much of the Algebra that I’ve listed below through bell ringers in Geometry since they are going to be weak. This will help them in their future math classes! At least now, I don’t have to do it all in one semester. I can spread it out over the year.

Here is this original post:

About 4 years ago, I created an Algebra STAAR Review that covered the newly established Algebra TEKS. Each of the Algebra TEKS is covered on a page of its own. At the top of each page, I put the objective practiced on that page. My thinking was if a teacher wanted to individualize the work, or just cover a certain standard in class, then this would make it easy for them.

Most people love the review, but some people complained that it was too much material. It is too much to try to cover in 2 or 3 weeks before the test. It is a detailed review with a short quiz at the end of each section. Each objective would probably take two to three (or more in some cases) 50 minute class periods to get it done. My mistake was that I did not give the teachers that purchased this review a suggested plan of action. With the craziness of school last year, I feel like it’s time to help teachers with a plan of action for the STAAR test. I have many questions from my district and the state that cannot be answered until we get closer to the school year, but I still want to forge ahead with a plan and I’d like to share it with you.

I am constantly studying the Algebra STAAR Exams. Recently, I took the tests from the last 3 years and put together an analysis. I wanted to see any patterns or trends. TEA has said how many questions come from each category, but when you figure out the details yourself, it’s eye opening. I’m going to teach all of the TEKS, but this helps me know which ones that I really need to emphasize. I took each objective and broke it into each standard within the objective and made tables and graphs for each objective. Below is the one I made for all of the objectives. The columns represent the number of questions in that category for that year.

*You can get a copy of the whole analysis at the end of this blogpost.

Before I share my plan, I wanted to discuss more about how to use the resources. For instance, Objective 2 has nine standards. There is no way to do all nine standards plus the quiz at the end right before the test if you want to review other topics. A suggestion is to use parts of the review during the school year to spiral the information. Pull them out when you need to review for a test or use them as bell ringers. Teachers have no time and before they know it the test is right around the corner. The best time to plan is as early as possible. My review bundle can be used throughout the year AND at the end of the year, so get the review now, print it off, put it in a binder and start thinking about how you can use the material. Also, if you purchase this and see something that needs to be added, just give me a shout out and I’ll see what I can do. (That’s the best part about purchasing from Teachers Pay Teachers. We can revise and edit as needed!) One thing that I really love about creating resources and lesson planning is being able to help other teachers that do not have the time to do it themselves, so here’s my Algebra STAAR TESTING PLAN for 2020-2021. I’m using the dates set by Texas as of July 2020. If things change, then I’ll adjust. I will be teaching both Algebra 1 and Geometry next year. Both groups will be taking the Algebra STAAR at some point since the STAAR testing was cancelled last school year.

EOC BEll Ringers – 10 Weeks, 120 Problems

All of the plans below are based on my Algebra STAAR Bundle and the EOC Bell Ringers-(I’ve changed the title to “Algebra Bell Ringer Review” but it is the same as previous.) The one thing not incorporated into my plan as of now are the quizzes at the end of the objectives. These could be used as pretests, posttests, homework, tutorials etc. I’m sure times will arise that I’m not thinking of right now, where I can use them.


TEST PLAN – December Test

(Testing Window – December 8 – 18, 2020)

Who is the Test For? Students that did not pass the Algebra STAAR in previous years and geometry or other math students that did not pass the Algebra STAAR or never took it because of COVID-19.

*If you see red Algebra TEKS in my descriptions below, they are readiness standards which means they are more of a focus on the test. (Go Look at the Algebra TEKS on the TEA website.)

**Note to Geometry Teachers – Let’s face it, Geometry will not be the same. You will need to focus on Algebra when you can. Some Geometry topics will not get as much attention this year!!! Some good news is that we do cover Algebra naturally in Geometry. While we are working on Parallel and Perpendicular lines, we can cover these Algebra Standards: 2B, 2E, 2F, 2G. When we are working with segments, segment addition, angles and angle addition, we can cover the solving equations standard: 5A.

  • Start the 2nd Week of School and do:
  • Pick days before Thanksgiving to work specifically on these topics: (***Side Note – My Algebra EOC Review covers all the TEKS and at the top of each page the objective is written, so you can easily pull the TEKS you need!)
    • Linear Topics – Writing and Graphing Equations Slope and Key Features of Graphs (2C, 3A, 3B, 3C)
    • Writing, Graphing and Solving Linear Inequalities (2H, 3D, 5B)
    • Quadratics – Writing, Graphing, Key Features, Transformations (6B, 6C, 7A, 7C)
    • Factoring and Solving Quadratics by Factoring (10E, 8A)
    • Writing and Solving Systems (2I, 3F, 5C)
  • Week of November 30:
    • Laws of Exponents (11B)
    • Exponential Functions (9B, 9C, 9D)
    • Domain and Range (2A, 6A, 9A)
    • Any other last minute details

TEST PLAN – May Test

(Testing Window – May 4 – June 4, 2021)

Who is the Test For? Students in Algebra 1 and students that did not pass the previous Algebra STAAR test.

For the Algebra I Students: (Use the Algebra Review STAAR Bundle)

  • Use these objectives as Bell Ringers OR add them to your homework/classwork starting the 2nd Semester. Each of these objectives is covered on a page in the bundle for that objective:
    • 1st Week: 2B, 2D
    • 2nd Week: 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H
    • 3rd Week: 3A, 3H
    • 4th Week: 4A, 4B, 4C
    • 5th Week: 12A, 12B, 12E
    • 6th Week: 9A, 9B, 9E,
    • 7th Week: 10A, 10B, 10C
    • 8th Week: 10D, 10E, 10F
    • 9th Week: 6A, 6B, 6C
    • 10th Week: 8A, 8B, 11B
    • 11th Week: 12C, 12D
  • End of March: (March 22, 2021)
    • The 3 Quizzes and Task Cards – (This is part of the bundle!) This takes a while to complete. I usually start the Task Cards at the end of March. Last year, I used the Task Cards as flash cards and put them in rings for each student.
  • 2 Weeks Before the Test:
    • First Week:
      • 3B, 3C, 3D, 3E
    • 2nd Week
      • 5C, 9C, 9D, 11B
  • 1/2 Day of Camp :
    • Use the worksheets and the task cards to do: 2A, 2C, 2I
    • Use the matching cards to practice: 3F, 3G, 3H
    • Use the task cards to do: 5A, 5B
    • Use the worksheets to do: 7A, 7B, 7C

For Students that did not pass in previous years or in December:

  • Invite to 1/2 Day Camp
  • Individualized Packets – Use their test results to create individualized packets.

I have a link to the plan and analysis below so you can have your own copy. To sum up what you will need to follow this plan:

Here’s a free sample of the Bell Ringers: Bell Ringer Sample