40+ Activities to Engage Students at the Start of Class

Decorative: An "Entry" sign


A. "Engage Learners with Bell-Ringer Activities" (post) introduces a variety of warm-up or "entry ticket" activities, "simple 5- to 10-minute task[s] students complete as soon as they walk into class, allowing the [instructor] time to attend to other business (such as taking attendance)."

  • The text elaborates a variety of prompts and activities and lists helpful tips. 

1. Purpose

a. "The main purpose of a bell ringer is to help teachers and students prepare for the upcoming lesson."

b. "To design a bell ringer':

  • "Think about what students need to know to find success in your lesson."
  • "Tease out the skill(s) required to accomplish that learning."
  • "Ask students to practice that skill by responding to a question, completing a short writing assignment, or drawing an illustration."
  • "Students come in to class and immediately begin work that connects to class outcomes, giving them time to 'pre-game' while settling in."

c. See also

2. TL;DR

a. There are many ways to grab a class's attention and get them focused on the coming topic in the first five minutes. The most common are writing/drawing based and include the following:

  • Writing prompts
  • Discussion prompts
  • Image prompts

b. 40 (other) suggestions listed on the infographic at the end of this post include the following:

  • "[A] mission, poem, game, word cloud, play with an app."
  • "[A] photo hunt, TED Talk, QR Codes, magic, Augmented Reality."
  • "Set up a scene, image prompt, comic strip, joke, infographic."
  • "[M]ake something, video, podcast, survey, graphic organizer."
  • "Sketchnote, web search, drawing prompt, poll, experiment."
  • "[I]nterview, writing prompt, virtual reality, quote, demonstration."
  • "[I]nvent something, song, brainteaser, art, advertisement."
  • "[A] scavenger hunt [or web quest], trivia, dice roll, gif, icebreakers."

B. Common Prompt Types

1. Writing Prompts

"Students respond to a question or statement within the allotted time."

  • "Change this up by giving students the option to respond through a written paragraph, [S]ketchnote, concept map, drawing, or comic."
  • "Practice different forms of writing, such as getting students to write an email, a poem, text message, tweet, or dialogue, or having them complete a graphic organizer."
  • "Make these more interesting with visual writing prompts." 
  • "Try comic or cartoon prompts. Give students a comic strip with blank speech bubbles to fill in based on what is happening in each frame."

2. Discussion Prompts

"Enhance speaking and listening skills with discussion prompts."

  • "Students work in pairs and take turns responding while the other peer listens and writes down the key ideas."
  • "While Student A responds verbally to the prompt, Student B writes down the main ideas expressed."
  • "Then Student B reviews the key ideas with Student A who confirms the statements are correct."
  • "[G]ive them sentence starters ..."

3. Image Prompts

Start with a relevant photo & have students complete one of the following tasks:

  • List [core vocabulary] -- "nouns, verbs, adjectives, [etc.] ... associated with the image and create sentences using these words."
  • "Draft sentences describing what" is occurring in the photo.
  • "Imagine the photo is the news of the day and create a news story."
  • "Write down [a] conversation related to the photo."
  • "Compare and contrast two photographs."
  • "View a sequence of photos, determine the order, and describe the event.

C. Some Other Entry Ticket Activities

  • "Turn and Talk – Students turn to each other and discuss 2 or 3 items or questions listed on the board."
  • "Students write down a response in a journal."
  • "Students relate to a real-world experience or event."
  • "Students compare 2 of the same item or complete a Venn Diagram."
  • "Students try to create a quick example or write down a favorite example, such as a favorite knock knock joke or acrostic poem."
  • "Students annotate the item, such as underline the title, circle the author’s name, etc."
  • "Students write down 1 idea about the item and makeup 2 questions to ask peers about the item or individual introduced."
  • "[H]ave a question or problem written down to hand to students so they begin working right away."

D. Logistics

1. Helpful Tips

  • "Establish a routine ... so students get into the habit of walking into the class and immediately working on the bell‑ringer activity."
  • "Keep [each activity] short, simple, and achievable ... apply[ing] knowledge and skills they have already acquired."
  • "Don't grade them": these tasks are to "to engage students and help them build confidence and prepare their minds to learn." 
  • Use these activities "as formative assessments ... assess[ing] if students have gained the essential knowledge and skills their upcoming lesson will build upon."
  • "Change them up ... [A]ssess[ing] different skills and knowledge in a variety of ways to keep students engaged."

2. Delivery and Collection

  • "Paper Slips/Entry Tickets": "[C]reate paper slips or cards that students can pick up as they enter the class ... Students can later place their completed paper slips in a basket labelled 'Turn In.'"
  • "Board": "Designate an area on the chalkboard/dry erase board to display the [prompt/activity]."
  • "Projector": "Display the bell ringer on a screen for students to see when they walk in.
  • "Journals/Notebooks": Students keep a record of "their completed bell-ringer tasks ... The digital version of this method would be student blogs."

3. Online Tools

  • D2L/mycourselink: "Students log onto their class website ... click on the bell-ringer task and submit it online." 
  • Web Tool/App: "Tools such as SocrativeGo FormativeNear PodQuizzizzGet Kahoot, and Seesaw make it easy for students to quickly complete a bell ringer in a variety of ways, such as answering questions, polling, drawing, submitting photos/screenshots, and so forth."

E. "Engage Them in the First Five Minutes" (infographic)

An infographic that lists the follow engaging activities (by rows): mission, poem, game, word cloud, play with an app; photo hunt, TED Talk, QR Codes, magic, Augmented Reality; Set up a scene, image prompt, comic strip, joke, infographic; make something, video, podcast, survey, graphic organizer; Sketchnote, web search, drawing prompt, poll, experiment; interview, writing prompt, virtual reality, quote, demonstration; invent something, song, brainteaser, art, advertisement; scavengers hunt, trivia, dice roll, gif, icebreakers


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