Foreign Language Bellwork: How A Question Of The Day Can Transform Learning

Are you struggling with bellwork in your foreign language classroom? It might be planning bellwork, managing students during bellwork, or invigorating your stale bell work ideas. We have you covered. On top of giving you fresh ideas, we’ll also explain some ways you can use online bell work to set up listening and speaking activities for your world language students. You can create meaningful learning opportunities for your foreign language students in your classroom right now. 

foreign language bellwork

What is bell work?

Bellwork is a short assignment that students complete as soon as they walk in the door. Bell work helps with classroom management, review, and introducing new concepts. 

What is a question of the day?

Questions of the day (QOTD) can take many forms in the classroom. Often a teacher may label their bell work as a QOTD. But in some classrooms, questions of the day go back to the essential topic of learning for the day that is tied to a learning standard. 

How does bellwork benefit a world language student?

Bellwork benefits students in types of classrooms. It helps students to

  • Be on task
  • Practice concepts that need extra work
  • Give you time to get things done before class like attendance, answering questions, and passing back papers
  • Establishes a routine for starting the day off on the right foot

But in a world language class, bellringers go one step further. Bellwork allows world language students to focus on one thing. This can help the student hone skills that can otherwise be overwhelming while learning a foreign language.

What are some no-prep foreign language bellwork ideas?

  • Have a theme for each day of the week: This is more of a structure, but it helps you stay organized each week to make bellwork more manageable. For example, you can do Music Monday in your foreign language class. Each Monday, the bellwork revolves around a song. This helps you mix it up, but you’re not working as hard to generate new ideas.
  • SSR: Silent sustained reading can be effective in the foreign language class–  even if students are using simple children’s books. 
  • Correct errors: Grammar practice can be tedious. But it can pay off if you do a little bit of practice each day. 
  • Music: Use popular music and lyrics to help teach language concepts. 
  • Question of the day: Conversational prompts in a QOTD format can get conversations rolling in your class. 

How can you do online bellwork?

With TeacherMade, you can streamline your bellwork and bring it online. This way, you don’t have to collect papers and grade them. TeacherMade does all of the heavy lifting.

We talked with Elena Baker, a French teacher from Ontario, Canada, to see how she uses TeacherMade in her classroom. She can bring in TeacherMade for various real-world activities that work well for online foreign language bellwork and assignments.

Online listening activities

TeacherMade makes it incredibly easy to create online listening activities for my students. In a world languages class, it is common to listen to an audio clip of someone speaking and then respond to questions about what you hear. Usually, I will upload a PDF of a worksheet with listening questions to TeacherMade, and then I will turn it into an interactive webpage using the tools at the top of the editing page. The app simplifies this process, and it typically only takes me a few minutes. 

Then, I upload whichever audio file I want my students to hear while answering their questions. I can embed MP3 files directly onto the worksheet, so all my students need to do is click ‘play.’ Alternatively, I also can record my voice by clicking the microphone button if I would rather read a script. 

This feature on TeacherMade gives me the ability to assign listening activities as homework assignments, as in-class independent work with headphones, or as part of a lesson during online learning.

Speaking activities

Another way I use TeacherMade is to assess my students’ speaking abilities. TeacherMade has a fantastic feature where students can record themselves reading out loud, and then the audio file automatically attaches to their work. This makes it simple for even my youngest students to record themselves independently. Students enjoy the novelty of speaking into a device, and recording on their own is often less stressful for shy students than speaking in front of the class. 

For this type of assignment, I can have students record themselves at home or send students to record themselves in a quiet space while the rest of the class is working. When conducting an assessment, I can listen to the audio files my students create multiple times so that I can give rich feedback on pronunciation, pacing, and volume. 

Convert existing worksheets for vocabulary practice

Finally, I use TeacherMade for vocabulary, grammar, and writing-based activities. It is so simple to convert my pre-existing grammar worksheets into fillable web pages on the app. I can insert text boxes where my students can type, I can use the ‘Hotspot’ tool to create bubbles for students to click, or I can insert Drop-Down bars where students can choose from more than one answer. 

I like using TeacherMade’s ‘Matching’ tool for vocabulary-based worksheets. Students can draw lines between vocabulary terms and corresponding English words or pictures with their cursor. For more complex written tasks, I insert an Open Answer question box on TeacherMade where students can type a response. I am even able to add a prompt or starting sentence into the box to help to spur my students’ creativity. Recently, TeacherMade has also added the ability for students to type special characters such as accents (à, é, è) through a pop-up toolbar. This is a lifesaver for students who do not have a bilingual keyboard.