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Sep 14, 2015

Why Should I Absolutely Use a Warm Up or Bellwork?

Sometimes you hear people saying that the purpose of warm-ups or bellwork is just to get kids settled at the start of class, and give the teacher time to get settled.  

That may be true, but I don't see that as the main purpose of a warm-up.



In my classroom, a warm up or bellwork is a key part of instruction.  I use them as daily quizzes, worth 2 points each day.  At the end of the week they get added up for a ten point quiz grade.  They are graded 2 points if correct, 1 point if tried but partially correct, and 0 points if not tried. I used to actually grade them for correctness, but I really want the students to try, even if they are unsure, and they will get 1 point for trying.  I want to use bellwork more as formative assessment than summative.

I use the same sheet each day for each student.  They know the routine to pick up their bellwork paper on the way into class.  This helps me with attendance, as well, because all students who are present on time pick up their papers.  Those papers left are absent.  When bellwork is over (first 5 minutes), collect their papers and grade them for the next day.  It sounds time consuming, but it only takes me a few minutes each day to go through and mark a 0, 1, or 2 on each student's bellwork square for that day.  It also gives me an excellent gauge on their comprehension as we progress through the unit.

You can see the bellwork sheets that I use on a weekly basis here. This really saves me time at the copier!  Instead of copying daily bellwork, I copy once a month and then put the bellwork on the board or smartboard when they come in. They just record their answers in the daily box.

Bellwork or Daily Quiz Template

I choose the questions that I use for bellwork very carefully.

At the start of the unit, I make bellwork very open-ended.  Some examples are interpreting a diagram, or making observations about a diagram.  I have also had bellwork early in the unit that focuses on a small reading passage, a connection between last unit and the new content, or even listening to a song or watching a video and stating what they think it is about.

I also like to use bellwork to build prior knowledge, if possible, or to practice basic skills, such as determining what is wrong with a graph, or to learn new vocabulary.

As the unit progresses, I ask content based questions, usually from what we just did yesterday.  This is where bellwork holds them accountable for yesterday's work, gives them a heads-up if they were absent, and gives me a quick look at understanding from yesterday.  At this stage in the unit, I usually use concept-based questions, but write them in my own words, or in more student friendly language, although I may use some diagrams from state exam questions.

As we get closer to finishing up a unit, my bellwork will mostly consist of state test questions on the topic that we are studying.  This is where they really get used to the language of the exam, and apply what they have used.

Lastly, depending on the group of students that I have, I sometimes do bellwork in a different way.  I teach in an urban district where reading levels are very low.  There have also been years where I have had a lot of ELL's.  Many times they are struggling with not only unit concepts and vocabulary, but tier 2 vocabulary, which we don't traditionally teach in science class.  I have used bellwork as a chance to teach some of these tier 2 vocabulary words, using these products in my store.  These give students pictures of a word, and ask them to infer the meaning.  We worked on 4 or 5 words a week, and then had a quiz at the end of the week.  This really helped, and made students more confident with inferring meanings of unknown words as well.

Inferring Vocabulary Cards Set 1  Inferring Vocabulary Cards Set 2  Inferring Vocabulary Cards Set 3


6 comments :

  1. Using warm ups as a formative assessment is a terrific idea! I like how you adapt for different needs. Love it!

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  2. Great ideas to get class started. Sounds like you have a good procedure for this in your classroom. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. Love the routine of your procedure. It's always so helpful for students to know what is expected. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. I like that your weekly point system offers credit to all students who try!

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  5. I agree that your warm-ups should be an actual part of the lesson, and making them assessments is very valuable for your students!

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  6. I love how your warm ups connect directly to your instruction...genius!

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