Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Power and Purpose of Bell-Ringers

Years ago, at a workshop, I was introduced to Jeff Anderson's Power Writing. The basic idea (or at least how it was conveyed to me at the workshop) is this:

Round One: Give students two words (I used "school" and "vacation") and have them write the words at the top of their page. Then they need to circle one. Set the timer for one minute and tell students to write as fast as they can about that word or a story that includes that word. When time is up, have them count the number of words they wrote. Record their word counts (you can see how I used the chart and tally marks).

Round Two: Same directions, only with two different words (I used "chocolate" and "pizza.") Record word count again.

Round Three: Repeat with two more words (I used "summer" and "winter") and record again.

Now, ask students to summarize the "data" on the board and see if, from the data, they can form a generalization about writing based on what they observed. (I usually let them work in groups or at least with a partner.)

Most students will be able to conclude that with each round, they got faster. Then some will generalize that maybe writers need to get "warmed-up" when writing just like athletes do when playing a sport. Eureka!!

We discuss that most practices or work-outs will begin with a warm-up to get the body ready for exertion. I explain that writers need to do the same thing! They need to get their hands and head warmed-up for all the writing that is about to come in class that day. I tell them that that is why will begin each and every class with a 10-minute bell-ringer: a quick write that will get us ready for the real work ahead later in class.

Each day, when my students come into class, they need to write for 10 minutes without stopping. They can write about whatever they want, but I always have a prompt on the board just in case they need some motivation. Usually it's one of these prompts, or a fun picture.

It's a quiet and peaceful way to begin class, and, as our research shows, the perfect way to get our hands and head ready for all the writing ahead!

What are some of your favorite bell-ringers? I'd love to hear from you!!

Happy Teaching!!


  1. I love this idea! Sounds great for writing fluency!

  2. Great idea! I can definitely see the word count tally working for my students who are competitive!

  3. Love this idea of writing first thing but I only have 50 min and want them reading! Have you figured out how you'll restructure your class once you go to 40 minute periods?

  4. CLEAR DIRECTIONS FOR MOTIVATING WRITING! THANKS! I also like the picture cue....I use that one.
    Sometimes a 1 minute youtube also does the trick.