Do Now/Bell Ringer

Friday, January 21, 2022

TARA provides educators with 50+ virtual teaching/learning activities and resources. This blog post is about the need to create and implement authentic virtual learning experiences for students in wake of COVID-19 social distancing precautions and how to adapt an in-person student activity to fit a virtual classroom.

The bell rings (loudly) and you hear students shifting around (hopefully) in their seats - looking for a pencil so they can begin their first academic task of the day. You, their teacher, have prepared an interactive, thought-provoking warm-up activity to engage prior knowledge and connect today’s lesson to real world scenarios. Monique raises her hand (again) to ask a question about where to record her work and you kindly gesture towards the specific, detailed instructions on the board. You verbally repeat these instructions to the whole class so that everyone is clear on what to do for the next 5-10 minutes. All is well in the world.

Unfortunately, this perfect vision may not be a reality for some of us who are preparing to teach in a virtual learning environment for the next… however many weeks or months. 

By definition, a “Do Now” or “Bell Ringer” refers to a quick, independent or collaborative activity that typically involves no (or minimal) guidance from the teacher. A “Do Now” can be used to activate students learning for the lesson, surface prior knowledge, or familiarize students with lesson vocabulary. 

As teachers, we are all familiar with and have planned and implemented many of these beginning tasks. We know how to properly set the stage and tone for the following lesson. We know what works and what has not worked in the past. But now, we are faced with the challenge of figuring that out all over again - in a completely different, virtual environment.

Challenge Accepted. With proper planning, clear direction, and the use of interactive digital tools, we can keep our students on track. Here is my take on a Virtual Do Now.

How to Plan & Implement a Virtual Do Now/Bell Ringer/Warm-Up:

Step 1: Virtual Set-Up. What digital tool are you/your students going to use to complete this task? Where will you post typed instructions? 

It’s important that you choose a platform that is student-friendly and easy to navigate. You also need to ensure that each student has access to their login credentials (if necessary). I recommend creating a master spreadsheet containing all student usernames and passwords to reference when needed.

For this example, I am going to use my favorite digital warm-up platform - Socrative!

  • Socrative allows you to create a custom activity with several question formats (multiple choice, short answer, paragraph, T/F, order, etc). This digital tool also integrates with State and Common Core Standards and allows you to instantly view student data - marking commonly missed questions while populating individual and class average scores. Socrative allows you to create your activity in Traditional, Quick Question or Space Race mode - if you want to incorporate some friendly competition :)

Sign-up is free! Create your Do Now assignment and select “Instant Feedback” so that you and your students can review correct/incorrect answers. Be sure to note the Socrative code at the top of your browser! This is considered your “Room Name” and students will need it to access your assignment (your name/last name followed by a 4-digit code).

Step 2: Post Instructions to Google Classroom. Consider posting the night before or early morning.

Before meeting with students, post detailed instructions for the Do Now Task. This gives students time to familiarize themselves with the platform and understand expectations before class begins. Posting assignments to Google Classroom creates a simple way for students to makeup classwork if they are absent or unable to access the internet.

Your post should include: 

  • Video meeting time + Link (Zoom, Google Meet, etc) 
  • Socrative Link + Room Name (including what students do with the Room Name code)
  • Any necessary log-in information
  • List of resources/materials needed

Step 3: Host Initial Video Meeting. Create a video meeting schedule for the week in advance to share with students.

Once you’ve welcomed and greeted students, mute their microphones to eliminate distractions and background noise. Repeat instructions for the Do Now activity and provide an additional link to Socrative ( + your Room Name code using the chat feature. If you set a timer for the quiz, be sure to let students know that they must complete the assignment within the given time frame. Remember that it will take students 3-5 minutes to open a new browser window and login. 

Step 4: Review Student Data & Address Misconceptions. 

Once all students have submitted their assignment in Socrative, quickly review student responses by clicking the Results tab. You will see a data chart broken down by student name/average and question number. The question(s) that are highlighted in red/orange are questions that a majority of students answered incorrectly. This is your moment to address mistakes and misconceptions!

Click on one of these questions and share your screen with students. Facilitate a discussion and allow students to virtually raise their hand to contribute strategies and solutions - just like you would during in-person instruction.

“To ensure that absent students have ample time to complete makeup work, consider extending the time frame to 2-3 days”

Other Things to Consider:

#1 - Alternate Tools:  Of course, Socrative is not the only virtual formative assessment tool out there. In fact, there are several interactive, free online sites that you can use for Warm-ups. If you want to use a tool that integrates with Google, check out Google Forms. If you’re into memes and your students thrive on competition, Quizizz or Kahoot might do the trick.

  • Check out this list of free digital formative assessment tools!

#2 - Student Names:  When students use sites like Socrative, Quizizz, or Kahoot, they are prompted to type their name before the quiz/game begins. Be sure to instruct students to type their real name (not a nickname or Tik Tok Celebrity) so you can quickly review or determine which students need more practice/remediation. Definitely not speaking from experience or anything :)

#3 - Assignment Window: When creating your assignment, most platforms will prompt you to select a time frame where the quiz is “open.” Once this time frame ends, students will no longer be able to access the assignment. To ensure that absent students have ample time to complete makeup work, consider extending the time frame to 2-3 days.

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