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Classroom Management and Content Reinforcement!

Warm ups and bell ringers are definitely a "vintage" idea, but used in the right way they become an excellent classroom management tool!

The bell has just rung for your next class. At your classroom door is a jumbled mass 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 want to chat, too. The students who were absent the day before want to know what they missed. One student needs to borrow a calculator. One student wants to go to the bathroom. One student wants to know if you finished grading a test. One 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?

The above scenario doesn't mean there is anything wrong with your classroom management. All teachers experience this everyday! However, you can make an action plan that decreases the chaos and get your class off to a good start everyday.

I have always considered classroom management to be 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 and thorough knowledge of the subject area. 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 always took too much time to get them to settle and to get class started. All teachers know that the first few minutes of a class period can be somewhat chaotic. There are always administrative tasks to complete in addition to getting the students focused. I am 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 and 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, could I 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 Biology Chat. Students are so excited to be in the lab, and NOT listening to a long list of class rules. After completing the Biology Chat Lab Station Activity, 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 procedures I expect as students enter the 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. I have them 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. Using bell ringers establishes a daily routine of having your students complete thought provoking and problem solving tasks during the first few 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 your favorite food" 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 previously taught content is the perfect way to launch into the new lesson of the day.

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.

17 Essential Science Skills All Students Should Master


Have you had a student ask you any of these questions?

  • Which one of these things is the graduated cylinder?
  • How do I convert from decimeters to decameters?
  • I can't do scientific notation on my calculator.
  • What are independent and dependent variables and how do I put them on a graph?
  • You wanted the graph to be on graph paper?
  • I did measure exactly 5 grams of salt on my balance! ( ... with salt in a beaker that wasn't massed.)
  • Percent Error? No need to do this; my data is perfect!
You only have to be a science teacher for one single day to start getting these types of questions and comments. My life as a high school biology and chemistry teacher became much easier when I recognized that the students entering my classes at the beginning of the school year would be all over the place in terms of their proficiency in basic science skills. Some of my entering students would be very proficient, while others had never been introduced to certain skills. The challenge we science teachers face is how to bridge this gap.

What are the essential science skills?

In the first days and weeks of a new school year, I need my students to be proficient in the following:
  • Metric measurement
  • Identification of pieces of lab equipment
  • Scientific method
  • Use of basic pieces of lab equipment such as the graduated cylinder, Celsius thermometer, laboratory balance, and metric ruler.
  • Tabling, graphing, and analyzing data.
  • Math skills: Scientific notation, dimensional analysis, significant digits
To accomplish this goal of proficiency of science skills, I have developed Science Skills Chat! -- a set of 17 Lab Stations to address 17 essential science skills all science students should know. I use the word "chat" to emphasize to my students that they are to work together and have a productive discussion at each station in order to maximize their understanding and mastery of the concepts being covered. Peer tutoring is a powerful learning tool!

Click on red text or any image to view Science Skills Chat in my TpT store.

What are the 17 Essential Science Skills?
  • Metric Units
  • Identification of Lab Equipment 
  • Scientific Notation
  • Dimensional Analysis
  • Significant Digits
  • The Scientific Method
  • Tabling, Graphing, and Analyzing Data
  • The Graduated Cylinder 
  • The Metric Ruler 
  • The Laboratory Balance 
  • The Celsius Thermometer 
  • The Bunsen Burner 
  • Determining the Volume of Solids 
  • Separating a Mixture 
  • Determining Density 
  • Accuracy, Precision, and Percentage Error
  • Scientific Drawings 

I would not suggest trying to complete all 17 lab stations at once. Choose a set of skills (perhaps 4 or 5 lab stations) to be completed during the first week of school. Choose the skills that are of immediate concern to you. Remember, some students may already be proficient in these skills, but other students will be struggling. No matter the ability level, ALL students will benefit from this review and reinforcement. 

Click on red text or any image to view Science Skills Chat in my TpT store.

Once your students have mastered the first set of skills that you deem most important, set up another lab station day to work on skills that students will soon need to know. 

I like the idea of having "Science Skills Friday" where you choose 4 or 5 lab stations to complete. The information in a fewer number of lab stations is not overwhelming, and it is a fun and different way to end the week. There are enough lab stations in Science Skills Chat to create several "Science Skills Friday" sessions.

Click on red text or any image to view Science Skills Chat in my TpT store.

Ten of the lab stations require some sort of lab equipment, but the other 7 skills are perfect activities to leave in your substitute teacher folder. In an emergency, your sub can grab a few of these and create a VERY quality lesson in your absence.

It may seem like you are spending a lot of time at the beginning of the year to cover these 17 science skills, but I guarantee that it is time well spent. As your school year progresses, you will spend far less time repeating and re-teaching skills that your students should already know.  

And, how nice would it be to reduce the number of questions you get every time you go to the lab?


P.S.  I have 11 Chat Lab Station Activities on a variety of topics.  You can view them all here: