Bell Work for the ELA Classroom

7 Activities and Strategies for English and Language Arts

The right start to class is everything. Your students start with the right attitude, energy, and curiosity. But today’s English and Language Arts classroom can feel cramped with standards. How do you prioritize precious time for bell work? We’ll walk you through the steps of getting your bell work in your ELA class to work harder for you and your students.

English and Language Arts Bell Work

What is bell work?

Bellwork is the short assignment students do as soon as they walk into the room. Bellwork lasts for 5-7 minutes before class. It happens every day, and you should direct students to find their bell work in the same place each day.

Why is bellwork important?

Bellwork does a lot for how little time you spend doing it in the classroom. 

    • Bellwork helps get your students focused. They walk in and immediately have something to work on, and they are not off task when the bell rings.
    • Bellwork creates a more calm and focused classroom. 
    • Bellwork allows you to do a little bit of practice each day without burning out your students.
    • Bellwork gives you space to check emails, take attendance, and pass back work.
    • Bellwork gives you a few minutes for students to ask questions that require some one-on-one time. 
    • Bellwork gives you a quick inventory of student knowledge before teaching a lesson.

Bellringers help with literacy and reading.

Beyond the reasons listed above, bellringers help with literacy and reading. You have time set aside each day to target skills that are most important for literacy:

    • Decoding: Working out what a word says.
    • Phonemic awareness: Using phonics to focus on specific sounds in words
    • Fluency: Connecting word recognition and comprehension to improve how smoothly text is read
    • Reading comprehension: Understanding the meaning of texts
    • Transcription: spelling and handwriting
    • Compositions: structuring ideas through writing
    • Vocabulary
    • Spelling
    • Information literacy
    • Digital literacy

Bellringers are the perfect opportunity for targeting skills that students struggle with most.

What are some bell ringer activities I can do today in my ELA classroom?

Silent reading

If you want your students to read more, give them time to read. This is the perfect bell work to turn into a weekly tradition. Give your students time to read a book of their choice each week. You will be surprised at how engaged they will be with their reading when they get to choose. You can assign a reflection question that they can answer about their books on a different day.

Writing prompts

If you have lofty goals of improving writing scores, and you’re not sure how to schedule the time to grade essays. Short writing prompts may be the answer. Even just writing a paragraph or two can improve writing skills when done consistently.

Correct grammar mistakes

This one is perfect for using TeacherMade’s self-scoring app. Write out text with grammar mistakes. Choose mistakes that your students often make, or choose grammar concepts you are currently learning. Students only need a few minutes to find the errors. They correct the mistakes. This is a great way to practice grammar consistently, but you’re not doing so much that it feels like drill work. 

Respond to a quote

Are you reading a book together as a class? Choose a quote from the reading, and ask students to respond. It’s a great way to discuss a book more casually. It is also a technique to use with any quote. 

Give it a title

Choose a text, and ask students to give it a title. This activity helps with reading comprehension and identifying the central idea and thesis. It’s also a way to introduce background information to a topic that you may discuss later in class. 


Poetry is inherently short, so it works well for bell work. Poetry is also better enjoyed in small doses consistently. (Poetry units can drag on.) Have students read a short poem and answer questions about the poem. The questions can relate to skills you want to refine.

An example could be having students identify the theme of the poem. From there, you could have them cite evidence on the poem. You will be amazed at how much your students enjoy poetry when you give them the space to look at one poem at a time.

Standardized test prep

Stop doing test prep as a unit at the end of the year. It’s terrible for everyone involved. Instead, incorporate it into your regular bellwork routine. Take questions from your test prep resources. Assign a few at a time throughout the year. By the end of the year, you will have worked through all of your test prep material. You and your students will not feel as if a ton of time was devoted to testing prep. It also means you don’t have to come up with as many bell ringers. It’s also easy to digitize test prep using TeacherMade. Read on below to see how!

How can I digitize bellwork in my classroom or do bell work in virtual learning?

With TeacherMade, it’s easy to turn your bellwork assignments and turn them into online assignments. If you’re assigning a worksheet or asking a series of questions, you could probably convert your assignment to an online worksheet. TeacherMade converts any assignment into an online worksheet or interactive assignment. In just a few steps, you can make your bell ringers digital:

    • Step 1: Upload your file. 
    • Step 2: Add fields for student responses.
    • Step 3: Add answers to questions for self-scoring.
    • Step 4: Send an assignment link to students.
    • Step 5: Get instant data with auto-grading features. 

With technology in the classroom, it’s never been easier to create online bell work. Whether you are in-person or doing virtual learning, online bellwork is essential. Convert your paper warm-ups to online bell ringer activities today!