What are Bell Ringers aka Do Nows & How to Use Them (with examples)


What do you call the first activity that you assign students as they enter your classroom? Are they warm-ups, do-nows, bell ringers, the hook, sit-down-and-start-working-or-else? Everybody has a different name for it. This seemingly innocuous activity launches your lesson and is a powerful tool when used well. It is NOT just a chance to keep kids busy so that you can take your attendance.

For the purposes of this article I am going to call it the do-now, because that’s what we call it in the New York CIty where yours truly teaches.

What is the function of a do-now?

The do-now is like a chameleon; it changes to fit the lesson. Some lessons will involve controversial topics (capitalism), some are more rigorous (reading primary source documents), some are lighter and fun (simulations). The do now should set the appropriate tone for your specific lesson. When well-planned it functions as a classroom management tool, a method of engaging students, a formative assessment, it sets the tone for the lesson AND allows you to take attendance. Here are examples to get you rolling.

Do Now Don’ts

Let’s get the things you shouldn’t do out of the way first.

  • It should not take more than 10 minutes including share-out.
  • It should not be a random 5 minute assignment you cut and pasted to keep students busy.
  • It should not be separate and distinct from the rest of the lesson (unless you’re giving a quiz)
  • It should not be too easy or too hard
  • It should not be group work (most of the time). This is a time for students to settle down and focus; group discussion will not accomplish this goal.

Do Now Dos

There are so many ways to implement your do now:

– ASK A PROVOCATIVE QUESTION THAT RELATES TO THE CONTENT YOU WILL BE COVERING. This will incite students’ interest and get them thinking.

Here are some examples:

Is tradition a positive or negative force in society? Explain your answer. (Good for Scientific Revolution, belief systems, women’s rights)

Was Galileo a coward for changing his stand on the heliocentric theory? Why or why not?

Do you think people are born to be naturally good or are they naturally selfish and evil? Explain your answer. (Good for Enlightenment Era or capitalism)

Is America the land of opportunity?

Was George Washington evil because he owned slaves?

– USE A SALIENT QUOTE. This method allows you to introduce new ideas and assess their ability to decode.

Here are some examples:

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.” John Stuart Mill

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Abraham Lincoln

“He who learns but does not think, is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.” Confucius

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela

“Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults.” Benjamin Franklin

If you need some inspiration I’ve created 2 articles listing historical quotes for every unit in U.S. History and in World History.

– USE MEMES AND POLITICAL CARTOONS. These can be difficult for some students, so the more practice the better!

–AN EASY WAY TO INCORPORATE DIFFERENTIATION IS TO OFFER 2 QUESTIONS DURING THE DO NOW AND ALLOW STUDENTS TO CHOOSE WHICH 1 THEY WANT TO ANSWER.

Here are some examples:

DO NOW: Interpret the cartoon. Who would agree with the opinion depicted and who would not?
Explain the caption of this political cartoon.
Identify which cause of WW1 is being shown AND explain how it helped to cause the war.

– AN EASY WAY TO INCORPORATE DIFFERENTIATION IS TO OFFER 2 QUESTIONS DURING THE DO NOW AND ALLOW STUDENTS TO CHOOSE WHICH 1 THEY WANT TO ANSWER.

Here are some examples:

Do Now“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” Winston Churchill What is Churchill describing? OR What did the “iron curtain” symbolize?

DO NOW: Read the following statement and explain the meaning OR Describe how it related to the Soviet Union and the United States during WW2.

The Enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Do Now: Identify the importance of the Dred Scott case, OR How did sectionalism play a part in the response to the Scott decision?

Do Now: In your opinion what are 2 positive aspects of Karl Marx’s communism OR what are 2 negative factors?

USE MAPS AND CHARTS TO INTRODUCE INFORMATION ABOUT THE DAYS’ CONTENT.

DO NOW: Create 2 accurate statements based on the chart above.
Do Now: Which line is a more accurate graph of unemployed Americans and why?
Do Now: Study the map above. The red line is the IRON CURTAIN. Using geographical terms (north, south, continents, countries, etc) describe who is on each side of the curtain.

Conclusion

These five methods of implementing do nows are some of my favorites. Feel free to cut and paste any of the examples and adapt them to your lesson.

Students thrive on routines. It fosters comfort and lessens anxiety to know exactly what to expect each day as you enter a classroom. There are many ways to add excitement and create a dynamic class, but routines create the foundation that allows for such creativity. Implementing daily do nows is an important component to a successful, engaging lesson.

Please share any ideas or strategies that you have for implementing do nows.

Warmest wishes, Joan

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.

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