Ways to Start a Lesson Ideas for Elementary Teachers

Do your students have trouble transitioning?  Do nows, which are often called bell ringers, are the answer!  They get students thinking and ready for the upcoming lesson.  Read below to learn more about do nows, their benefits to both teachers and students, specific examples, and helpful tips.


Learn what bell ringers are and why first, second, third, fourth, and fifth classroom teachers should use them as lesson starters, opener activities, and morning work. This Clutter-Free Classroom blog post offers tons of ideas for elementary teachers. Check it out now! #bellringers #donows #elementaryclassroom
This blog post will...
  • explain what do now and bell ringer activities are and why you should use them in your elementary classroom (first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grade).
  • provide math and ELA examples of do nows.
  • suggest how to implement them in your classroom.

What is a Do Now Activity?
A do now activity is a teaching strategy that takes place in the first 3-10 minutes of class.  Do nows are warm-up learning activities that allow students to work independently while they connect prior learning and new learning.  They are highly effective because they promote independence, motivation, productivity, engagement, and an appropriate mindset at the very beginning of the content area.  They are also a great classroom management tool, because students learn and carry out the routine, which maximizes learning time.  

What is a Bell Ringer in Education?
Bell ringers are often used synonymously with do nows.  The only difference between the two is that students know the end of a bell ringer has come when the teacher rings a bell.

Why Should I Use Do Nows or Bell Ringers in my Classroom?
There are a number of benefits to starting lessons consistently for both the student and the teacher…

Benefits to the Students
  • Know what is expected of them because of the set routine.
  • Get in the appropriate mindset for the lesson.
  • Sets him or her up for success during the lesson.
  • Offers them the opportunity to be independent.
  • Gives them the opportunity to engage in a task they feel successful in and confident about.
  • Increases their confidence in the content area.

Benefits to the Teacher
  • Gives the teacher time to work with students one-on-one or in a small group.
  • Allows the teacher to pull students for an assessment.
  • Provides an opportunity for the teacher to connect with individuals with special needs.
  • Serves as a classroom management strategy for the teacher because it increases student engagement, creates a smooth transition, and promotes a learning environment where all students are expected to learn and engage.

Examples of Do Nows

Math Examples
  • Number Tracing:  Ask students to trace the numbers on the page with their finger, eraser, and then pencil.
  • Number of the Day Activity: Invite students to do a number of the day activity (2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade versions available).
  • Problem of the Day: Offer a problem of the day where students need to apply their problem solving skills.
  • Vocabulary Match: Ask students to do a worksheet where they read the vocabulary words and match them to the definitions.
  • Math Facts: Give students addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division problems to solve.
  • Number Puzzle: Encourage students to use their critical thinking skills to solve math puzzles.
  • Crossword Puzzle: Invite students to do a crossword puzzle with the math vocabulary from the topic you are currently teaching.
  • Word Search: Invite students to do a word search with vocabulary from the topic you are currently teaching.

Literacy Examples
  • Letter Tracing: Ask students to trace the letters on the page with their finger, eraser, and then pencil.
  • High Frequency Word Tracing: Ask students to trace the letters on the page with their finger, eraser, and then pencil.
  • KWL Chart: Have students fill out part of a KWL chart.
  • Free Write: Give students 5 minutes to write about whatever they want to, but they must keep their pencil moving at all times.
  • Think and Write: Put up an interesting image on the board and ask students to write about what is happening in the image.  Another option is to show a book cover and have them write about what they think the book is about.
  • Read and Write: Give students a reading passage and ask them to respond to open-ended questions/prompts.
  • Crossword Puzzle: Invite students to do a crossword puzzle with the high frequency words you are currently teaching.
  • Word Search: Invite students to do a word search with the high frequency words you are currently teaching.

Tips for Successfully Implementing Do Nows
  • Maintain consistency in the routine.
  • Think about high engagement when planning.
  • Ensure difficulty is appropriate for independent work.
  • Use it to review prior learning that connects to new learning.
  • Keep it open-ended.
  • Limit task length to 3-10 minutes.
  • Provide specific instructions both orally and in writing.
  • Use picture directions for early readers.
  • Ensure students know how to access all materials they need independently.
  • Maintain a quiet and productive classroom environment.
  • Go over answers/responses right afterward.
  • Provide feedback on the assignment to motivate students to participate in the do now.

Learn what do now activities are and why elementary classroom teachers should use them daily. These lesson starter activities include bell ringers and do nows, which also work well for morning work in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classrooms. Read the blog post now!  #donow #donowactivities #bellringer #bellringeractivities #bellringers #donows #elementaryclassroom #morningwork


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