Computer Applications | Student Engagement | Teaching Strategies
5 Bell Ringer Activities to Engage Computer Applications Students
With past experience in teaching, a couple of degrees in writing, and an upbringing immersed in medical jargon, Mike is positioned well to hear out the most common questions teachers ask about the AES curriculum. His goal is to write content that quickly and effectively answers these questions so you can back to what matters - teaching your students.
Even though your students spend so much of their lives connected to the internet, it can still be difficult to grab their attention when they walk into your computer class. Maybe they prefer using their phones, or maybe they’re just so immersed in technology that computers no longer impress.
Whatever the reason, it can be incredibly frustrating for computer teachers to wrangle students at the start of every class period. As a computer applications curriculum developer, we’ve heard hundreds of teachers voice these complaints about student engagement, and in response, we’ve developed a list of activities--called bell ringers--designed to hook your students in as soon as they walk through your door.
In this article, you’ll discover 5 of the best bell ringers you can use to quickly engage students in your computer applications class:
- Question of the Day
- Educational Games
- Gauge Student Knowledge
- Student Check-Ins with Google Forms
- Keyboarding Warm-Ups
By the end of this article, you’ll have a keen understanding of each of these strategies so that you can use the ones that fit your classroom the best.
What Is a Bell Ringer Activity?
A bell ringer is a short assessment, activity, or assignment that students complete as soon as they enter a classroom.
Typically, bell ringers indicate to students that class has begun and immediately engage students’ attention by priming them to think about the course material.
There are many examples of bell ringers, but they vary depending on the subject matter of a class:
- Math classes frequently have students complete practice problems at the beginning of class to refresh their minds on a previous lesson’s theorems or equations.
- English classes often include writing activities like Write for Fives, where students spend five minutes journaling their thoughts going into each lesson.
- Science classes may have students complete short vocab quizzes on important terms they learned in a prior lesson or from a textbook.
While these activities are helpful for other subjects, when it comes to computer applications, there are more specific bell ringers that use technology to win over your students.
Bell Ringer 1: Question of the Day
A great way to both prepare your students for a lesson and refresh them on a prior lesson is to ask them a Question of the Day.
Questions of the Day can come in many forms, but generally they should be specific, thought-provoking questions that relate to a previous day’s lesson.
In other words, if your students pay attention, they should have all the tools they need to answer it!
What Are Some Example Questions of the Day?
To effectively use a Question of the Day:
- Either write the question on a board or otherwise present it to your students.
- After you’ve written it, give your students a few minutes to think about or write down their responses.
- When they’re done, you can either call on one of your students, have each turn in their response, or use the Question of the Day as a springboard to start a class discussion.
Try to make your Question of the Day interesting so it grabs your students’ attention. For example, if you’re teaching a unit on trustworthy web research, some solid Questions of the Day might include:
- How common do you think it is for misinformation to spread over the Internet? Why is this the case?
- Do you think people often lie about themselves when posting on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter? Have you done this?
- What are the ways you think the internet can cause people harm?
Rather than just forcing students to list off facts or figures, with the right Questions of the Day, you can engage your students’ critical thinking skills and get them to expand on their existing knowledge.
Bell Ringer 2: Educational Games
Digital games can sometimes be a slippery slope to use in your classroom. After all, it’s really easy for students to become so focused on winning that they stop paying attention to the actual course material.
However, it can’t be denied that games go a long way toward engaging your students in class. If you use them correctly, gaming can be a great bell ringer to kick off your computer applications course.
Games have stakes, force students to think quickly and critically about course material, provide an incentive for interacting with the class, and perhaps more than anything else, are exciting and fun!
What Are Some Example Educational Games?
There are a few different kinds of games you can incorporate in your computer applications class to ensure it gets off to a strong start:
- Computer applications games are some of the easiest and most fun games you can have students play. These games test your students’ skills and knowledge when it comes to tech-centric concepts. For example, when teaching digital citizenship, Interland is a valuable interactive game you can have students play to explore the various concepts involved.
- Trivia games are another exciting tool computer apps teachers have in their toolbox. Gaming systems like Kahoot! allow teachers to start class with customized trivia games for any topic they can think of, including computer apps. Playing a trivia game using Kahoot! with laptops and interactive screens can even double as a soft lesson showing students how versatile technology can be.
Gaming can be one of the simplest ways to engage your students and keep them interested in the course material. After all, no student will mind entering a classroom when the first thing they get to do is hop on a game.
Bell Ringer 3: Gauge Student Knowledge
Gauging your students’ knowledge can be another solid bell ringer to kick off your computer applications class. After all, students often like having their knowledge of specific topics probed by teachers in preparation for a lesson.
If it’s a topic the student is already confident they know well, answering your questions correctly will get them excited about enhancing their understanding. And if they don’t know the answer, no big deal! That just gives them more room to learn the topic in the first place.
In many ways, this bell ringer may play out similar to a Question of the Day activity, but while a Question of the Day is focused on a previous day’s lesson, gauging student knowledge takes place before the lesson on a topic.
What Is an Example of Gauging Student Knowledge?
When grasping how much students know about a subject, try to be intriguing with your questions.
For example, if you’re about to teach a unit on responsible social media use, here’s a way you might gauge student knowledge:
- Ask students what irresponsible social media use looks like, or maybe if any of them have ever regretted posting a thought on social media.
- Have them respond either written, digitally, or verbally.
- Take into account their responses, and focus on an answer that will serve to spring into your lesson for the day.
When you effectively leverage this bell ringer, your students will feel encouraged about their knowledge, and you’ll also get a sense of where their understanding rests regarding the lesson at hand.
Bell Ringer 4: Student Check-Ins with Google Forms
Checking up on your students at the beginning of class every day is another excellent bell ringer you can use. This one is a bit different, too, because it focuses more on measuring your students’ mental or emotional states rather than prepping them directly for your course material.
Using Google Forms, you can ask students to rate themselves on a scale of one to five for various criteria. For instance, Jacqueline Prester, the business teacher who created this bell ringer, asks students simple questions like how they slept the night before or how they are doing outside of class.
There are many benefits to using this bell ringer. For one, it keys you into how your students are feeling, both about themselves and potentially about the course material. You can then use this info to track how they do throughout your class and, if necessary, make some changes if they need a bit of help.
Another benefit is the open communication this method establishes. Students will appreciate that you’re listening to them and empathizing with them. If done right, they may carry that appreciation over into their course work.
What Are Some Example Questions for a Google Form Check-In?
Jacqueline Prester divides her Google Form Check-In into four questions:
- How did you sleep last night? (Scale from 1-5)
- How was your breakfast/lunch? (Scale from 1-5)
- In general, how are things outside of class? (Scale from 1-5)
- Anything you’d like to share with Mrs. Prester today? (Optional short answer response)
This framework is a great starting point for teachers to gauge their students’ overall state before each day’s lesson. Keeping it simple and quick will allow you to get the information you need to best adjust the class to your students’ needs.
However, this isn’t the only set of questions you can use for your Google Form Check-In. You can quite easily change the questions to better fit your course and students. For instance, some questions on a computer applications Check-In might be:
- How stressed do you feel from your other classes today? (Scale from 1-5)
- Are things going well outside of school? (Scale 1-5)
- How many hours have you spent on the internet in the past day? (Scale from 1-10)
- Any thoughts about this? (Optional short answer response)
- How prepared do you feel to learn today? (Scale from 1-5)
By using even just one or two questions on a Google Form Check-In every day, you’ll go a long way toward understanding and empathizing with how your students feel about your class, and can make necessary adjustments to give them the best experience possible.
Bell Ringer 5: Keyboarding Warm-Ups
Similar to games, keyboarding warm-ups can be another fun bell ringer to start off class. These are solid opening activities that prepare your students for the day and help them develop invaluable typing skills.
After all, most professional jobs will expect employees to have a strong familiarity with keyboards. Providing your students with the right games and activities when they’re young will help cement a foundation they’ll use for the rest of their lives.
What Are Some Example Keyboarding Warm-Ups?
There are a few different kinds of keyboarding warm-ups:
- Typing software is a kind of educational technology you can use to help students learn the best keyboarding practices. Depending on the software you choose, you may receive different structure and activities. Some products work best for personal use, having learners watch videos individually and test themselves on their abilities. Others are instead meant for classrooms, allowing teachers to keep track of student progress and receive feedback on the exercises they complete.
- Typing games are fun and simple activities to help students practice in the first few minutes of class. There are several websites full of engaging typing games you can have students use to warm up, with varying levels of complexity. Just make sure you trust the websites that you end up using!
Depending on your needs, one of these types of warm-ups will be more valuable to you than the other.
Typing software will be more useful to teachers who want their students to undergo more in-depth keyboarding practice, with lessons and exercises designed to help them succeed. If you want keyboarding to play a significant role in your class, try using typing software as a bell ringer.
Typing games are intended more for teachers who want something quick and fun to engage students productively. If you simply need a short educational activity to kick class off every day, a typing game would better suit you.
Need More Strategies to Keep Your Computer Students Engaged?
Grabbing students’ attention as soon as they walk into your classroom is key to your class getting off to a strong start. However, it’s also something a lot of computer applications teachers find challenging. With how well students know technology these days, you’ll have to try new and interesting strategies to ensure students focus on you.
In this article, you’ve discovered a few activities that will help you do just that. If you use these bell ringers to start off each class, it will go a long way toward ensuring your lessons hook your students right off the bat.
But when it comes to the battle for student engagement, bell ringers are just the beginning. If you need more in-depth strategies to fully engage your students throughout your class period, check out our article on the best ways to keep computer applications students engaged.
This article goes into the various ways you can gain--and keep--student interest in your computer class, exploring concepts like active learning, relatability in the classroom, and more.