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Combining Classroom Management With Content Reinforcement in the Science Classroom

Warm ups and bell ringers are definitely a "vintage" idea, but this tried and true classroom management tool is still effective for most classes.

The bell has just rung.  At your classroom door is a jumble of students, some leaving the room, some entering the room.  Some of the ones leaving have stopped at your desk to chat or ask questions.  Some of the ones entering are doing the same.  The students who were absent yesterday want to know what they missed.  A student needs to borrow a pencil.  A student wants to go to the bathroom.  A student wants to know if you finished grading a test.  A student asks, "Are we doing anything today?" (As if there was EVER any possibly that we weren't!)  Two students in the back of the room are being clowns.  The tardy bell is about to ring, and you are ready to get this class started.

Does this chaos sound familiar?

If this is your classroom every day, then you need a plan of action.

Classroom management is one of my strengths.  I am organized and have every single minute of class time planned before my students arrive at the door.  I consider classroom management to be one of the most important aspects of teaching, second only to having a deep knowledge of the subject area being taught.  I teach "bell to bell" and gear the pacing of my class to the learning abilities of my students.  Frankly, I am good at it ....... Or so I thought.

One year (after having taught for many years) I had a class that was a bit more challenging than the average high school biology class.  The class consisted of 25 freshmen and sophomores, all nice kids, not a bad apple in the bunch.  They were rarely disrespectful, but always came into the room overly antsy, rowdy, and excitable.  It took longer than normal to get them settled so class could begin.  All teachers know that the first few minutes of a class period can be somewhat chaotic.  Students are socializing with one another, students who have been absent are asking for missed assignments, attendance must be taken, graded papers must be returned, homework assignments must be collected.  The list goes on and on.  I was very good at getting things started promptly in my class, but this one particular class was different.  It became a struggle every day to get them settled and start my class.  I needed to do something different.

I had not used "bell ringers" for quite some time, but I thought this might be a good tool for getting this class under control.  I needed a consistent plan of action that my students followed every day that established a certain mindset in my students. Further, I wondered if I could get this group of high schoolers to keep and maintain a notebook of these warm ups.  In short, I wanted to reduce the chaos and get on with the business of teaching.

The answer is a resounding...    YES!  IT WORKED!

What is the new routine?
On the first day of school, I do a really fun ice-breaker activity called Science Chat.  Students are so excited to be in the lab, and NOT listening to a long list of class rules.  On about day 3, I start gently introducing my classroom management game plan.  I let them know what type of notebook to purchase (see below) and I talk about the "table" they will pass as they enter my room.  When fully implemented, it goes something like this:
•  Students walk into classroom, passing the "warm up" table as they enter.
•  Students pick up the daily warm up and proceed to their desks.
•  Students have 5-10 minutes to complete the daily bell ringers.
•  Students may get up to visit the supply table that contains stapler, tape, colored pencils, markers, and rulers.
•  Teacher takes roll, passes out papers, answers questions, and assists students who have been absent.
•  Students are orderly and teacher can begin teaching with minimum chaos at the beginning of class.

What will you need?

•  Students will need to purchase a notebook.  They will place their daily warm ups in this notebook each day.  I love the type of notebook that you see here. The binding is tight and pages "stay put" and rarely fall out.  Best of all, I love that these notebooks can be purchased during Back-to-School season for only 50 cents.  One of these notebooks contains 100 sheets of paper.  When used front and back, this give you room to place 200 warm ups in the notebook.  Students will likely need a couple of these notebooks if, like me, you plan to use the bell ringer pages for homework assignments and daily quizzes.  

•  You, the teacher, need to set up a table near the entrance of your classroom.  Each day, place the warm up(s) on this table,  as well as any supplies needed, such as tape, markers, or rulers.

What are the benefits?
You can turn the chaotic beginning of your class into a time of meaningful learning.  It establishes a daily routine of having your students complete thought provoking and problem solving tasks during the first 5 minutes of the class.  Once the routine is established, students will enter the room and get right to work on the warm-up or bell-ringer activity.  These warm-ups are designed to take 5-10 minutes to complete.   It settles the students and provides the instructor a few minutes to carry out the tasks required at the beginning of a class.

An added benefit is reinforcement of the current content I am teaching.  My warm ups are not of the "write a paragraph about what you did this weekend" variety. Each and every warm up reinforces the subject matter content that I am currently teaching.  Students will be labeling, diagramming, calculating, estimating, problem-solving, analyzing, and predicting on each page.  This quick review of yesterday's content is the perfect way to launch into the new lesson of the day.

How can these pages be used?
•  Warm ups and bell ringers
•  Exit slips
•  Additions to your interactive notebooks
•  Homework assignments
•  The completed notebook is the perfect review for your unit tests or end of course exam.

The warm ups in my TpT store are all one-half page in size.   They can be collected and quickly graded, but they are always placed in the student notebook when I return them.  In addition to using these pages as bell ringers, I also use them for homework assignments and for short daily quizzes.

After many months of writing and developing, I now have a warm up set for every chapter found in a typical high school biology textbook. And, best of all, I have accomplished what I set out to do:  
•  I established a classroom management plan that works for me.
•  Students are engaged and working at the beginning of class.
•  The daily reinforcement of concepts and subject matter content have led to higher test scores.
•  It's a WIN-WIN!

If you are interested, you can Click here to download a FREE sample of my warm ups and bell ringers, or you can   Click here to see all of the bell ringer resources in my TpT store.

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