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5 Reasons Why Warm-Ups and Bell-Ringers Were a Failure in My Classroom

I have a confession to make.

During my years in the science classroom, I was never able to sustain a long-term warm-up or bell-ringer routine with my students.

I was always so jealous of the math teachers across the hall who seemed to get their students working on a warm-up even before the tardy bell would ring.

I've had some time to reflect back on why that process never worked and have been able to nail it down to 5 specific reasons.

1. I Didn't Value The Warm-Up Process

When the bell rang, I was ready to get after the lesson. Anything that got in my way (including taking attendance...I was terrible at that too) got pushed aside.

When I look back to my warm-up process, I realize it was a huge disservice to my students. Most middle schools have about 5 minutes between classes, and students need to ease back into the learning process after a chaotic passing period.

Warm-ups are a great way for students get their head wrapped around learning for another 45 minutes or so. They are particularly great if all students can participate in the activity.  You're letting students off the hook if they don't know how to respond to the warm-up question. It needs to be accessible to all.


2. I Seemed to Always Be Scrambling for Content

Another issue I had with warm-ups is that I was spending too much time planning the warm-ups and they were only going to take up a small fraction of my class period.  What ended up happening during lesson planning is that we focused on the meat of the activity and the warm-ups always got forgotten.  The effect was that I was scrambling each day to find something for the students to do when they came into class.  It became a point of stress for me and what ended up happening is that I just ditched them all together.

I would have benefited greatly from having a resource to pull from which would save time and make that 5 minutes of my class EASY.

3. Content Wasn't Meaningful to Students

One year I had the brilliant idea to use released test questions as a warm-up.  In theory, this isn't such a bad idea, but the reality is that students never took it seriously, especially if all they had to do was write down A, B, C, or D.

Again, what value is that kind of warm-up to a student who can't answer the question?

Are these the kind of inquiries that get kids interested in science?  I think not.

4. Students Didn't Have a Procedure

Just like everything else in your classroom, if you don't have consistent procedures and processes it's likely not going to end well.

When I did warm-ups in my classroom, I was never consistent about them.  One day we would do them, and then the next day we wouldn't.  Of course what happened was that students didn't' get into a groove with the process and it turned into something they felt was unnecessary when I asked them to do it.   The reality is they were probably right!

What were those math teachers doing across the hall?  They were setting the expectation of what the students should be doing when they walk into class every day.

5.  I Didn't Have a Procedure

My plan was to have the students do their warm-ups in their journals each week and then at the end of the week; I would give them a daily completion grade.

This presented two problems for me.  First, it was easy for students to quickly scribble down a few answers on Friday and call it a week.  That's a total waste of 25 minutes of class time throughout the week.

The second issue was that I had to grade 130 INB's every week.  I realize grading is part of my job but is this the best use of my time every Friday afternoon?  Probably not.

Looking back, I wish I would have installed a better grading process.   It would have allowed me to quickly look at students work and immediately know that they took the warm-ups seriously.

Why Share My Failures With You?

I may be in the minority, but I enjoy sharing my failures in the classroom.  One of the most enjoyable parts of teaching was reflecting back on what worked and what didn't.  I love coming up with solutions to the problems.

The best part for you is that I have a warm-up and bell-ringer solution for you!


Science Warm-Ups and Bell-Ringers For the Entire Year

I've collaborated with my friend Bonnie over at Presto Plans and would like to share with you the answer to your warm-up woes.

The Science Bell-Ringers Full Year Resource was created for middle and high school science teachers and solves all of the problems I've described above.

The comprehensive year long resource (40 weeks!) includes everything you need to start each science class off with an engaging warm-up activity.  One of the highlights of this resource is that by the second week of school your students will understand the process because each day of the week will seem familiar to them.


Start your week off by familiarizing your students with common science terms in a fun and engaging way. The Powerpoint presentation teaches students common science terms from different disciplines with an easy-to-understand definition as well as related short video clips! After they learn the term, have students record the meaning of the term (in their own words).



Bring discussion and debate into your science classroom on Tuesdays with these task cards and presentation slides that are sure to get even your most reluctant students discussing controversial and interesting science topics. The resource includes everything you need to spark up friendly debate and get your students talking about science.  


Get your students' attention on Wednesdays with these engaging science video writing prompts! The slides include links to short (all less than 6 minutes) high-interest video clips that relate to a variety of scientific disciplines like physics, biology, chemistry, environmental science, paleontology, zoology, engineering, geology, ecology, computer science, psychology, astronomy, & more!

Students respond to a short writing prompt related to the video that allows them to summarize information, make personal connections, make links to popular topics, make predictions, and much more! Youtube is required for the video clips in this presentation



Inspire your students with these 40 quotes from some of the most important and influential scientists in history. Each slide includes a quote, a picture of the scientist, a brief explanation of who they are/what they are known for, and the prompting questions. The prompting questions that allow students to respond to the meaning of the quote, consider how it relates to their world, and if it still holds significance today.


Bring some laughter into your science classroom once a week with these 40 hilarious science inspired jokes that your students will love. The jokes cover a wide range of science topics (chemistry, physics, astronomy, earth science, biology etc.). Have students attempt to guess the punchline when they arrive in class and consider giving a small prize/treat to those who get it right!


A student response sheet is included, but you could also have students respond in their interactive notebook.  If you're going to be grading the warm-ups for completion (and you should), then I would quickly walk around on Friday with a class list and weight each question 20 points a piece.  You'll be able to tell within a couple of seconds what grade each student deserves.

You can read it right at the top of my website.  My goal will always be to create "Engaging Lessons for Busy Teachers" and I think we knocked this one out of the park!  Enjoy!

Check out the full year warm-up bundle in my TpT store.

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