20% off with code HOLIDAY20 |

Bell-Ringer Activities to Combat the Summer Slide

When summer is over and it’s time to return to school, many students struggle to get reacclimated. That’s where bell-ringer activities can help.

We all know the value of bell-ringers—they’re activities that help students reorient for the school day. But they’re doubly important when it comes to recovering the knowledge drained by the lazy days of summer vacation.

Let’s discuss the benefits of bell-ringers to combat the summer slide, plus some activities you can add to your teacher toolbox.

Bell-Ringer Classroom Activities to Combat the Summer Slide

Consistency is key when it comes to bell-ringers. Make it a routine that students know to expect and even look forward to. But you can still add some variety and fun into your bell-ringer activities. Here are a few ideas that you can incorporate in your classroom:

  • Writing prompts: Offer students a prompt and give them 5 minutes to freewrite. You can ask them to write about their favorite part of the summer, describe a painting that you display, or come up with advice that they could imagine receiving from a cat. Check out our blog from last year for more writing prompt ideas.
  • The Periodic Table of Candy: Place pieces of candy on students’ desks or at the center of the room. Students can then take 10 minutes to organize and class the candies based on their different properties. At the end of the bell-ringer, explain the similarity between this exercise and the creation of the Periodic Table of Elements.
  • How Fireworks Work: Kids will love learning the science behind what causes the loud BOOM and explosion of colors. Go over the steps or watch a video to offer a visual representation.
  • Math puzzles: Math puzzles are a great way to get your students’ minds jogging at the start of the day. Try writing a logic puzzle on the board at the start of the day and giving students a few minutes to solve it.
  • Speech bubbles: Pass out a copy of a famous painting, like the Mona Lisa or Washington Crossing the Delaware, but with speech bubbles inserted near the heads of the subjects. Let students fill in the speech bubbles based on their interpretation of the painting.
  • Question of the day: Ask students a question of the day and then give them 5 to 8 minutes to reflect and answer, either through freewriting or sketching. Some questions might include: “If you were stuck on a deserted island, what two items would you have with you?” or “Would you rather travel to the past or future?”

Understanding the Summer Slide

Summer break takes up almost a whole quarter of a student’s year. It’s understandable, then, that most students will experience some learning loss before the beginning of the school year comes around.

“This phenomenon is known as summer learning loss, or the summer slide,” says an article from Waterford. “A student’s exposure to educational activities isn’t usually as rigorous during the summer as it is in the classroom, and some students may need a refresher at the beginning of the new year.”

Some amount of summer slide is to be expected. However, the learning loss can hit some students harder than others. Waterford goes on to show that children from under-resourced families are much more likely to struggle with significant learning loss compared to their wealthier classmates.

Learning disabilities can also play a role, increasing the risk of summer learning loss. When left unattended, the summer slide only increases the achievement gap among student demographics. In order to have a classroom where every student has a real chance of succeeding, teachers must address and counteract the summer slide.

Making Bell-Ringers a Classroom Staple

Bell-ringers are so called because they’re an activity that students participate in at the beginning of the day, soon after the bell rings. Bell-ringers, when they become a routine classroom activity, can be an excellent way to combat the summer slide. It gets students into the habit of learning, even in small and fun ways, at the beginning of the day. With repetition, it can help to boost retention.

In a past article, we discussed how to set up bell-ringers for your classroom:

  1. Make bell-ringers a routine. Start using them on day one and set clear expectations in the first weeks of school for what students should do every day once the bell rings.
  2. Keep your bell-ringers tied to a learning objective. The bell-ringer should either help prepare students for a lesson or refresh their memory about a past lesson.
  3. Display the instructions for the bell-ringer so students can see it as soon as they walk into the classroom. Write it on the board in front of the classroom or hang a poster.
  4. Make sure students have access to all the materials they will need to engage with the bell-ringer.
  5. Keep bell-ringers short and sweet so they don’t disrupt your lesson plans. Five to 8 minutes is a good metric. Keep a timer where students can see it. When the activity ends, quickly review and conclude the bell-ringer and then move on.
  6. Treat bell-ringers like a pop quiz. Every once in a while, grade the bell-ringer. This way, students will learn to take bell-ringers as seriously as the rest of the class.

Experience PD Designed to Make Your Job Easier

Well, a teacher’s job is never “easy.” But you can use PD to make an even more powerful and positive impact on your students. These courses are designed to do exactly that.

  • The Growth Mindset: Fostering Resilience and a Love of Learning: Mindset is a buzzword in today’s educational landscape, but it often addresses only students’ mindsets, not educators’. Explore your internalized beliefs about learning and your students’ abilities, and learn how to structure your classroom around a culture of perseverance and opportunity. 
  • Cultivating Student-Centered Classrooms: In student-centered instruction, the responsibility of designing and executing learning activities shifts from teachers to students. Learn to implement active learning strategies, self-paced and cooperative learning, and open-ended tasks to promote self-reliance skills, deeper understanding, greater retention, and increased motivation.
  • Bell Ringers and Exit Slips: Creating Powerful Beginnings and Endings: Develop concrete, actionable strategies for choosing bell-ringers and exit slips based on curricular objectives to keep students quiet, focused, and primed for learning. Use techniques and resources to easily implement best practices to engage students in creative and critical thinking and incorporate these activities into daily instruction.
  • How to Stop Playing Catch-Up: Time Management for Teachers: Do you ever feel like there’s never enough time for work, much less your personal life? Gain practical tools to streamline or eliminate tasks, manage interruptions and distractions, and become more efficient with daily tasks such as e-mail, lesson planning, and grading.

Advancement Courses offers more than 280 online, self-paced PD courses covering both foundational topics and emerging trends in K–12 education. Courses are available for both graduate and continuing education credit for your salary advancement or recertification needs. 

Fulfilling Your PD Requirements?

Choose from 280+ online, self-paced continuing education courses for teacher salary advancement and recertification. Available for either CEU/clock hours or in partnership with regionally-accredited universities for graduate credit.

Browse Courses