The short story:
Looking for a way to spark some interest in your bellringers? Banish Boring Bellringers is my solution, created after years of watching the dread in my students’ eyes when they looked at the day’s beginning exercise written on my board. My bellringers are generated using fascinating, surprising, and just plain bizarre bits of info gathered from across the web (and fact-checked). These class-starters make grammar practice fun, and my students can’t wait to read my bellringers when they walk into class each day.
The long version:
As a true believer in immediately engaging students in activity the moment they walk into my room, I have always used bellringers, or as I call them, “starters.” I was bored and unimpressed with the standard fare offered in textbook supplements, and I often had to change them so much to make them useful that I thought that I might as well write my own.
One day, after reading an interesting tidbit online about dimples actually being a genetic defect, I decided to share this fact with my class in the form of my day’s starter. The info amused my students and had everyone in the class smiling and checking each other out for “defects.” That day’s grammar practice was fun and informative as well as educational. I felt that I’d struck grammar gold, and I resolved to bring the same level of enthusiasm to each day’s class.
Since then, I’ve regularly created my own starters, and I never tire of seeing my students enter my class, drop their books, and immediately look to the board to read the day’s fun fact. (Even when my former students who’ve already graduated return to visit me, they can’t resist scanning the starter when they step inside my room.) My biggest reward is the look of puzzlement or amusement that crosses students’ faces. The most common question in my room—“Is that really true?”—is always answered with the response, “All my information is fact-checked before I post it. You should always fact-check what you read online.” (I like to take these opportunities to try to impress the importance of confirming the truthfulness of web reports so as to encourage students to verify, verify, verify.)
Using the starters to reinforce grammar skills, I’ve been thrilled to hear reports from many of my students that the consistent practice has helped them raise their ACT English scores from two to five points. I believe the key is repetition, and each day’s exercise tests run-ons and/or sentence fragments as well as punctuation. I regularly include skills commonly found on the ACT in addition to elements of formal (MLA) writing.
I hope you and your students enjoy and find success with my starters!