Here is one major change that I will implement for next year and that’s bellwork.... you’re probably thinking, “What? You don’t do bellwork??” My answer is “I used to.” See, when I taught only 6th grade, I had one bellwork for 6 classes. When I became a high school teacher, first time I had 5 preps so I didn’t bother. The last two years, I’ve had 6 preps so I continued not to bother. Just doing the math, it’s over 1000 bellworks to design and prepare. That will be one of my assignments over the summer!

I give the kids a Do Now every day and it doesn't take me too long to make because it's usually just one question. I don't make them in advance because a lot of times it relates to the lesson. You can also take questions from the state test for the Do Now. I used to project it but the kids didn't do it. Now, I print it on half sheets of paper and have a kid quickly collect them after we go over it. The kids think I grade them but I just recycle them. Even if some of the kids don't do it, most of them at least write it down when we go over it this way.

Sometimes, the answer is in the simplicity. For example, in elementary, my "bellwork" is having them dive into a book. It sets the tone for the day, shows the importance of reading, is a flexible activity that I don't have to worry about some finishing and some not, and auto-differentiates. For math, I wonder if doing some kind of open-ended question relating to that day's topic would work? Or maybe just make it an initial question that leads into the discussion you'd be starting the lesson with anyways? Definitely don't need to make it something to grade.

I have tried this year to do online bellwork. I had students use online sites such as xtramath.org and ixl, hoping that it would help differentiate my lessons a bit. There have been some issues with it I want to work out, but I have seen it accomplish many of the goals I was hoping it would.

Belkwork does not need to be a worksheet. It can be as simple as one problem up on the board. Students take out a notebook when they walk in, they write down the problem and solve it, you give them two minutes and then go over it. I like the idea of taking a question from a state test. You could also use an SAT prep book.

Why not have students design and deliver your bell work problems? I rarely created bell work problems after first week of school. From then on students did all the bell work as part of homework. I gave them a theme, numbers and operations to use to design their own real-world application problems. They had to write out their problem and show computation. I collected hw and chose a student to "teach" the class their problems. I scanned that student's paper and copied it to the projector. It became the Two Problems when students entered. In advance, I gave each student a generic IBM answer sheet which they kept in the front of their text to use each day. Each problem had four solutions, a-b-c-d, with one being correct (like a test). While the student was teaching I walked around and monitored students. The next day I chose another student (from the stack of hw).

No matter what system you use, I advocate for keeping it consistent from day to day rather than trying different formats. This keeps kids in a routine, and that is good for classroom management. My preferred method: as students walk in, I have the daily agenda projected on the board. The first item on it says, “Pick Up: ______________. Complete problem ______.” If we are starting a new section of notes, they will pick up the notes handout for the lesson which will have the warmup problem at the top. Incorporating it into the notes handout saves the hassle of making extra copies just for warm-ups, saves time by not having to pass out papers to start, and serves to hold students accountable for completing their warm-ups as part of my periodic binder checks. If you don’t use notes handouts and instead have students write in notebooks, you can type the problem into the agenda and have students write it in their notebooks. If we have already finished the lesson and we will get straight to work on an assignment, they will pick up the assignment and complete a specified problem or problems on that for their warm-up. Each day after working the warm-up individually, I direct students to talk about their process with their shoulder partners, and then we go over it as a class.