One of my favorite things to do as a teacher is learn about my students find out what makes them tick. Since the great push towards standardized testing each year there seems to be a little less time getting to know the students and more time hammering the material, prepping for the tests, and teaching testing vocabulary.
To help me relate to my kiddos and still teach good writing skills to help them with their testing I got creative with their bell ringers. When they walk into my classroom the students will usually see a picture like the one below.
After the 5 minutes are up we discuss the writing prompt and the students then grade themselves based on four categories.
- Did they answer the question
- Did they indent, write complete sentences, capitalize and punctuate
- Is it legible at least to them (amazing how many can struggle reading their own handwriting)
- Grammatically correct spelling using subjects and verbs in each sentence etc…
I created a four point scale for each of the categories and have noticed that the majority of the students are much tougher on themselves and it is much more effective than having me grade it for them. They see their mistakes right away and are less prone to make them the next time out.
I like using creative bell ringers but it gives me a chance to discuss things outside of the material with my students. It creates a good give and take and it is always fun to play devil’s advocate to get them to think deeply or rethink an answer that they thought was easy two minutes earlier. So, I highly recommend using some creative bell ringers in your lessons it will not only give your students a small respite from worrying about the tests but you as well.