You might think that being a “bell to bell” teacher would contradict my commitment to empowering kids rather than overpowering them. But making every minute count doesn’t preclude student empowerment; it promotes it. Provided, that is, it’s done for the right reason and the right way.
The Right Reason
The reason I held myself accountable for bell to bell teaching and learning had nothing to do with controlling students, and everything to do with honoring them. Daily attendance at Manley High School in Chicago was around 60%, and many students had to traverse rival gang turf to get there. Others had to juggle school responsibilities with those of caring for children--their own or younger siblings. And for most students there were other challenges associated with poverty. With everything kids went through to make it to school, it was imperative that I make it worth their while. Bell to bell wasn’t an option to me; it was an obligation.
The Right Way
This bell to bell obligation means we must provide all students a constructive learning activity at all times. This includes preventing idle time by providing “early finisher” activities. It also includes efficient transitions from one activity to another. And actually, as I often tell teachers at classroom management workshops, the best transition is no transition. As a math teacher, for example, I started class with a Quick Quiz just as many teachers begin their classes with a Do Now. But before collecting the Quick Quiz, I set up the next activity so that students could get started on it without delay. Then I circulated to pick up the quizzes. (The activity that followed the Quick Quiz was Homework Self-Check and Troubleshooting, so all I had to do was replace the Quick Quiz with the homework answers on the projector screen, and then I was free to collect the quizzes.)
Browse the archives of my blog (especially the Classroom Management section) for other ways to make every minute count in your classroom. And do it now, since bell to bell learning is every student’s right, and every teacher’s duty.
Image by Tatjana Romanova, provided by Dreamstime license
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