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Bellringers and Exit Tickets: Two Classroom Resolutions for the New Year

Digital, Holiday

Routines help us accomplish our goals. Usually around this time of the year, we often start new routines with the hope of making good on our New Year’s Resolutions. This year, I’m resolving to start and revamp two of the most significant classroom routines: bellringers and exit tickets. I’ve been using both of these strategies since I first starting teaching, but the way I facilitate and assess them has improved with research and experimentation. The best part about bellringers and exit tickets is that there are a number of ways to adapt them to make them work for your classroom and your students. Today, I’m going to share how and why I started and revamped these strategies in my classroom, so you can consider my experience that may just work for you too!

Bellringers and exit tickets are great routines to establish any of the time. Read about how I revamped my bellringers and exit tickets for my New Year's Resolution.

What are bellringers and exit tickets?

A bellringer is any beginning-of-the-class activity designed to engage students with a learning task as soon as they walk in the door. These tasks are sometimes called “do now,” “warm up,” or “bell work.” Conversely, an exit ticket, sometimes called “exit slip” or “ticket out the door,” is learning task given at the conclusion of the lesson before the exit bell.

Why do I use them?

1. Classroom management

I consider bellingers and exit tickets to be proactive classroom management because for me, they minimize, if not eliminate, any problems before they start. Generally speaking, actively engaged students don’t have time or reason to act unruly. It’s not a sure fix to every problem, but for me, I believe it’s prevented many problems. To begin, bellringers minimize downtime while I’m completing attendance or other required duties. My students walk into the classroom and immediately get started on their bellringers. This gives me time to get my routines accomplished without any interruptions.

Similarly, an exit ticket is completed at the end period. Have you ever had a problem with students lining up at the door before the bell? As far as classroom management goes, this strategy is a great way to eliminate this effect. Now, students will always have a task to complete at the end of the lesson, making my lesson truly bell to bell. These routines also add a predictable structure to my class that helps my students focus and lessen nerves that may come with unpredictable environments.

2. Formative assessment

These two routines are valuable formative assessments, assessments conducted during the learning process to help you develop and modify your instruction. For me, bellringers are a great way to monitor students’ thinking with slightly longer tasks usually around 5 to 8 minutes. Exit tickets are generally shorter (less than 5 minutes) and consist of a specific metacognitive task, a task designed to get them thinking about their own thinking, or reflective task. Often students do not voice their struggles or boredom; these strategies give students a mode for which their voices (usually written) will be heard and valued. Therefore, you are likely to get honest and valuable feedback, not necessarily about you or your class (that is another topic altogether) but rather for your students’ comfort with the learning process.

3. Higher-order thinking

Bellringers and exit tickets can be very meaningful critical thinking activities, not to mention how valuable daily thinking and writing tasks can be. These tasks are great ways to make connections with the content as a refresher from the day before, reflect on how they feel about the learning process, and extend to other content areas and experiences. As a bonus, they are a great way to facilitate engaging discussion. When students have had time to think about a prompt or complete a task individually first, they are far more likely to discuss with confidence in small groups or with the whole class.

How do I use them?

Although I’ve been using these strategies for a while, it was high time I revamped my facilitation of them. What better time than the New Year to start new routines? I always start by projecting the task or prompt on my SmartTV. I use a simple PowerPoint slide to type out the task. Alternatively, you could write it on a board or even dictate it to them. This part hasn’t changed. However, I updated with two changes that have been really successful: going digital and using a template.

1. Going digital

My school is 1:1 with Chromebooks, so this may not be possible for you. However, if your students have daily access to technology, I suggest you consider making the switch from print packets and notebooks. When my students come to class, they open their bellringer template, and I project the task on the board. They answer the question while I’m taking attendance, and then we have a discussion. This is a great anticipatory set before the next lesson. Exit tickets work the same way except at the end of the period. My students open their exit ticket template, and I give them a metacognitive or reflective task.

2. Using a template

In addition, while pre-written daily bellringer topics and tasks certainly can be effective and engaging, I found that my students are more engaged and interested when the tasks directly relate to the lesson and topic of the day. As a planner and organizer, I was nervous about writing tasks the day before or in some cases for exit tickets, minutes before the end of the lesson. Nonetheless, I soon found how easy it is to create authentic tasks for both bellringers and exit tickets when they specifically relate to the content at hand. Therefore, I created a digital template for both bellringers and exit tickets that make it easy for me to facilitate a targeted task.

Bellringers and exit tickets are great routines to establish any of the time. Read about how I revamped my bellringers and exit tickets for my New Year's Resolution.Bellringers and exit tickets are great routines to establish any of the time. Read about how I revamped my bellringers and exit tickets for my New Year's Resolution.

Here’s an example: My students read the dinner scene from Macbeth Act 3, Scene 4 the day before, so here was their bellringer for the next day:  Create an invented group message with at least three texts from three different people as if you and two friends were present at Macbeth’s dinner and secretly texting about his bizarre behavior behind his back. For their exit tickets, I asked them to find a meme that represents how well they understood the reading, paste it into their exit ticket template, and write a short explanation of why they picked this meme. These example were easy to come up with because it directly related to their content.

How do I grade them?

For me, the main purpose for reading the bellringers and exit tickets is to collect data so I can modify my planning and instruction to best serve my students. However, with all of this writing, grading can taxing. In the past, I collected print journals at intervals and would spend hours grading them and leaving written feedback. Truly, this was not efficient, and when I had kids, I couldn’t spend an entire weekend grading.

Now, I spend more time in class engaging with students while they write. With a quick walk around the classroom, I eliminate hours worth of grading. Not only do I monitor their work while walking around the room, but I also have one-on-one, small group, and whole class discussions that give me informal feedback on how well my students are displaying extended thinking and grasping the content. Last, I specifically check the bellringers and exit tickets any time there is an area of concern, such as with challenging texts, like Macbeth.

Still, many students need motivation and accountability in order complete the tasks with quality; therefore, I always grade the bellringers and exit tickets at least once during a nine weeks. I grade holistically, considering the quality of the work as a whole. This means, that I can spend time reading over the students’ work without obsessing over the small parts (e.g. grammar, structure, length, etc.). Since the goal of the assignment is for me to gain formative feedback, I find this grading method to be very effective.


I hope my experience can provide you with some inspiration for your own classroom, and if you have any questions or ideas to further the discussion, leave a comment below. You also can find me daily on Instagram @doccopteaching. If you’re interested in using my templates, you can find them here (bellringer) and here (exit tickets).

4 Ways to Celebrate the Season with Your High Schoolers


‘Tis the season to celebrate–even with big kids! You might be surprised by how easy it can be celebrate the season with your high schoolers. I starting thinking about this right before Thanksgiving break. So, I prepared a fun Thanksgiving Task Book for my students. One of the tasks asked students to reflect on their blessings with a visual.  The directs were open-ended, but I pictured most of the students creating a digital collage.  The results surprised me, and I learned a BIG lesson in the process. Here was the result:

Yes, those are hand turkeys. They by choice made hand turkeys, and they had a blast. Thankfully, this surprise gave me an important reminder: even though they’re “big kids,” they still like to celebrate. The joy that simple assignment created got me thinking about fun ways to celebrate this holiday season leading up to winter break, so I joined up with some of my teacher-blogger friends to share ideas for creating comfort and joy in your classroom this holiday season. Today, I’m sharing four fun ideas that not only will spread joy but also provide meaningful engagement for your higher schoolers so they can have fun and learn too.

Celebrate the season with these four ideas that will spread holiday cheer while engaging your high schoolers in meaningful holiday fun!

A Classroom Visitor

Classroom holiday mascots aren’t just for little kids; my students love our Elf on Mishelf! When they walk in my classroom on December 1st, they are greeted by a mischievous holiday visitor who watches their classroom behaviors each day and then flies back to the North Pole every night to report their behaviors back to the big guy. At first, they look at me like I’m crazy, but I’ll tell you, it’s a really creative classroom management tool when I remind them, “he’s always watching!”

Celebrate the winter season with four engaging and fun activities to spread holiday cheer with your high schoolers.

We’ve had a lot of laughs over this little guy, but we also have a really important and engaging lesson on his behalf!  I start the lesson with a bellringer that reads, “What do you think about ICT (Information and Communication Technology) surveillance? Is it a necessary evil? Explain.” I know this doesn’t really sound festive, but this is how I hook them. Once they’ve completed their bellringers, I introduce students to the article, “The Elf on the Shelf is preparing your child to live in a future police state, professor warns” by Peter Holley of the Washington Post.

We read this article as a way to generate discussion and analyze the strength of the author’s claims. This piece always generates a lively discussion about Michel Foucault (hence the name, get it?), Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, and their own holiday traditions. You can access a free copy of my article discussion questions in my VIP Resource Library. After this hearty discussion, our classroom mascot takes on a fun reminder of the lesson all throughout the holiday season. Plus, every day, the students come into class eager to see what mischief our little friend got into today.

*TIP: Choose students to set up your classroom mascot each day, so you don’t have to spend time doing it. They love doing it, and they can find tons of good ideas on Instagram and Pinterest. You can even use this as a competition for creativity.

Holiday Music

Holiday music is a must if you want to get everyone in the holiday spirit.  You really don’t need an excuse to play holiday music, but if you’d like a lesson out of it, have students analyze a holiday song of their choice. Many of these songs have interesting origins and meanings, which make them great for reader response activities. I use a Critical Reader’s Song AnalysisAlso, check out this awesome (and appropriate) holiday classroom playlist from my teacher-friend, @maniacsinthemiddle.

Celebrate the holiday season with your secondary students and engage them in the process!

Holiday Decor

Do you need some holiday decor to brighten up your room? Engage your students with a symbolism ornament for a fun and meaningful holiday activity. The best part is that there are a few ways to complete this activity:

  • Depending on how many students you have, you can purchase plastic see-through ornaments and ask students to fill it with symbols that represent a literary work, a character, or even themselves. Use them to decorate your classroom tree or hang them throughout the classroom.

 Celebrate the winter holiday season with your high schoolers with four fun ways to set the holiday mood!

  • Similarly, you could have students create their own paper ornaments with images to represent the symbols.
  • Lastly, they could create their symbolism ornament digitally with a Google Slide. Students can search for images and drag and drop them into shapes to create a digital ornament. You can even print them and hang them around the room. 

Holiday Games

If your students are like mine, they’ll embrace any chance to play a game in class. This is when we have to get a little creative so that we can play a game that has some educational merit. My favorite holiday game is charades, which in itself can have literary merit if you play with literary topics. As an introduction to this game, we do an impromptu speaking mini-unit that I call Snowy Speaking. After they practice impromptu speaking strategies with a small group and fun winter topics, charades sounds pretty easy. Sometimes, they even request to do impromptu speeches instead.

If your students are into trivia games, Kahoot has some great pre-made holiday trivia games. Students can use any device to play the game while they compete against each other (and maybe even you) to answer quickly and accurately. Kahoot is always a hit with my students.

Bonus: Gifts for the Season

Check this blog post for holiday gift ideas for your high schoolers!

Don’t forget to check out all of the great ideas for adding comfort and joy to your classroom this holiday season and make sure you enter the 12 Days of December giveaway below!

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