Start Class the Right Way, Every Day

The final tardy bell hasn’t yet sounded, but your students are already in their seats, binders open, jotting down your beginning-of-class lecture materials from the board. Too good to be true? This is my every day.

Here’s how it works:

With M.U.G. Shot Mondays, students master Mechanics, Usage, and Grammar by working together to proofread real-world writing examples. These 38 weekly grammar editing sessions address the most common errors made in middle-school and high-school writing. Students write down the flawed sentence and then work together to edit/make corrections. After the class agrees on all of the edits made by the student writing at the board, I go over the marks, explaining the rules that apply. After three sessions, I collect the students’ papers and give points for accuracy.

14-2On Lit. Term Tuesdays, class begins with a high-interest short lecture featuring classic literary devices paired with modern, pop-culture examples with which your students are certain to identify. Sure, everyone knows protagonist and antagonist, but have your students learned about anti-heroes (think: Walter White from Breaking Bad, and Dexter) or foils (Jude Law’s Watson to Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes)? Freshen up their literary term knowledge with these once-a-week-lectures in the fall semester, ranging from five-to-15 minutes each. From Will Ferrell to Stephen Colbert to Ferris Bueller to Mad Magazine, there are plenty of lively examples included in these lectures to help your students relate to the techniques used in our greatest classic tales. I’ve also included links to 19 video presentations I made (one per weekly lesson) to serve as lecturer notes/prep materials. Feel free to use them to prep yourself for the bell-ringer lectures.

Then comes Words on Wednesday, a weekly lesson to build higher-level vocabulary in your college-bound students. These lessons feature words commonly used on the SAT that educated adults also use in their everyday lives. Even if your students aren’t bound for a university, they’ll still benefit from knowing these words as they enter the work force. Each vocab. lesson, which takes about 15 minutes, goes deep into understanding denotation and connotation of five separate words and includes definition, synonym, antonym, and a sentence relevant to a teenage audience. Instead of using a list of 10 words each week that students memorize and then promptly forget the next week, I’ve found more success with going deep on five words. We discuss them and use them in regular conversation. I’ve been delighted to see many of these words show up in students’ in-class writings, and they also excitedly point them out to me in passages we read in class. This method helps words “stick” in their heads better than any other method I’ve tried in my 16 years as a high school teacher.

On Thursdays, my classes take a break from the routine procedures and focus solely on our current unit of study.

Fridays? Why, S.S.R., of course; it’s the best way to end the week. Click here for my FREE materials on how to manage your students’ quiet reading time – easy grading for you!

Use this massive bundle of my popular mini-lessons to teach the Common Core-aligned grammar, literary term, and vocabulary skills your high school students need. This full year package of materials includes everything you’ll need to keep your students actively engaged from the very start of each period.

16 thoughts on “Start Class the Right Way, Every Day

  1. I love this concept. Our school requires some type of bell work….would your suggestion be to use these daily ideas in lieu of bell work?

  2. Absolutely, Amanda. That’s exactly what I do with these bellringer slides/mini-lectures. The kids really enjoy the routine and learn a lot. Hope you find a way to make these work for your classroom, too.

  3. Do you or somebody you know, have something like this for high school math?

  4. Hey Tina, great question! Alas, I’m not familiar with the math offerings over at TpT, but there’s so many great sellers on that site that you’re bound to find bell-ringers that will work for all of your different math levels. Just go to and search for warm-ups or bell-ringers. Fingers crossed that you find what you want!

  5. magistra knight says:

    Laura! It’s magistra again (Latin for teacher…) I love alliterative days and have used them as a guide for the day’s lesson…but LOVE the idea to use them as the bellringer/warm-up! For Latin, I have Mythology Mondays, Time Travel Tuesdays (history/culture), Words on Wednesdays (Ha! Great minds think alike?
    This is specific derivative work).

    Question: Do you use these consistently throughout the year and, consequently, do you or the students tire of them? Or is the consistency comforting?
    😉 Stacey

  6. Hi Stacey and fellow alliteration fan,
    Yes, indeed, I use the bellringers consistently for the entire year. You would think that the kids would roll their eyes and be “so over this” by the second semester, but they actually embrace the class-launching procedure. Teens, just like adults, accomplish a lot when good routines are set in place. They don’t even consider the option of not doing the bellringers. The slide of the day is already projected as they arrive in the classroom, so they sit down, crack open their binders, and get to work. Also, my bellringer lecture/talking piece is never more than 10 minutes and we do a wide variety of other things in the bulk of the class period. Honestly, I think many of them crave consistency and reliability. In fact, whenever I’ve had to occasionally alter the schedule (fire drill, assembly, or whatever), they always ask if we can start the next session with the bellringer/warm-up we missed that day. Eureka! Bellringers? Oh yeah. They’re staying in my classroom routine.

    Thanks for being a reader!
    🙂 Laura

  7. magistra knight says:

    Laura, is the bellringer activity directly related to that day’s lesson?
    And are the students filling in a blank ‘bellringer’ sheet, with question/task projected or is it on their own paper? I’m sure your bundle has amazing resources for English teachers! (insert green jealous face here). I am going to work on modifiying my current warm-ups to fit this format. Yes, the routine is SO appealing.
    Thank you for your time!

  8. Hi again! No, the bellringers are not necessarily directly connected to the day’s full-class lesson content, but I’m surprised how often I can find a bridge – a reference to the same lit. term or use one of the new vocab. words to describe something in that day’s lesson. To save on my copying costs (I’m limited with how many copies I can make each year), I just have students take the notes from the slide lectures onto their binder paper. Love knowing that this routine will be a fit for your Latin classes, too!

  9. Do you have the kids take notes independently using your slides, or do you orally lecture from the presentations? I love the consistency you’ve created, but I don’t teach high schoolers. I’m trying to adapt your idea for my 6-8 mixed class. Thanks!

  10. Thanks for checking in with me, Christie. I do lecture on the slide content as students record all of the text from the slides in their notes. For MUG Shots, I collect the edited sentences every five rounds (five weeks) and give points for accuracy. For the Lit. Terms and Words on Wed., I don’t collect the notes, but students use them as study materials for quizzes and the final exam. For younger students, I would consider giving printouts of the slides with space on the page for side-notes, since heavy note-taking and 12-year-olds isn’t always a great match. Hope this helps! 🙂

  11. BeccasaurusRex says:

    I will be a brand new high school English teacher this Fall and have been hired to teach several sections of English in different grade levels. Just wondering if this bundles includes separate lessons per grade, or if the materials are lumped together as appropriate for students grades 9-12?

    I have been browsing your selection of materials and am so impressed–thank you for giving me ideas on where to start, and for something to aspire to!

  12. Congratulations on joining us on this side of the teacher’s desk, BeccasaurusRex! So glad you’re set with your placement for the fall. Awesome! These bell-ringers are generalized and will work for any group of high school students in grades 9 through 12. I designed them to be broad so they’d fit lots of different classrooms; in fact, you actually could use the exact same slide content with all of your classes this first year. If you stay at your school for a second year and have repeating students, you’ll need to change things up in at least one of your classes so that handful of returning kids aren’t seeing the same content in their second year with you, but you can worry about that later. (I have a 2nd volume of bell-ringers available, should you need them.)

    I’m teaching grades 9, 10, and 11 on a new campus this year (I moved from Calif. to Idaho last summer) and use the same MUG Shots and Lit. Terms for all three levels. I vary the Words on Wed. slides only to keep myself sane, as I get tired of repeating myself and telling the same stories all day. 🙂

    Hope this helps!

  13. Lisa Scott says:

    Hello, do you do anything like this for 6th grade ELA

  14. Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for asking! Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to go through and make a version of bell-ringers for the younger set. Maybe someday… Sorry to disappoint. 🙂

  15. Brittany Scheer says:


    Thank you once again I can alter and use in my sixth grade ELA classroom! Can you elaborate on how the student side of these works? They take notes in their binders? Does each day go on a separate sheet of paper? (One page for 5 weeks of M.U.G., one page for five weeks of Words on Wednesday, etc.?) Also, what does grading look like? Since you do a mini lecture and go over them, won’t they be handing in their corrected work?

    Thank you again!,

  16. Hey Brittany,
    So glad you’re going to be able to make this work for your 6th graders! In terms of paper work, each kid keeps hold of his running sheet of MUG Shots. I have students write the raw sentence with pencil/pen and then make the edits/corrections that we discuss in class with a different writing utensil so that it stands out – raw sentences with pencil and then corrections with black ink, or raw sentences with black pen and corrections with green ink, or whatever. If a kid has only one pen with him, he’ll just switch with a nearby classmate for the editing part or borrow a pencil or red pen from me.

    I collect those corrected MUG Shot notes every five weeks and score them for completion points, scanning each day’s entry for accuracy. If a student missed one of our edits (not paying attention, eh?) or created another error by misspelling something, then I take a point off. The five MUGs are worth 30 pts. – three points per sentence and we have two sentences each Monday. These are easy points and a helpful buffer in the grade book; my class can be rather rigorous, so the opportunity for easy points is appreciated by most kids. That being said, the first round collected in late September is always a surprise as the kids realize that I’m actually looking at their work and going through their edits with a fine-toothed comb. I warn them from the get-go that I’m going to check their work, but I guess they don’t believe me. Let me tell ya, scores GREATLY improve on the second collection round.

    For the Lit. Term Tuesday and Words on Wednesday notes, I allow students to keep those organized in whatever way suits them best. Kids usually have one sheet for ongoing lit. terms and a different sheet for ongoing vocab. I don’t ever collect those notes or give any assignment points for writing down the slide content for those two bell-ringers. The materials for these three bell-ringers comprise the bulk of our semester final exam, so students will need all of their notes and my returned, scored MUG Shot pages in order to prepare for our 100-question, 200-point exam.

    It’d be a lot easier to show this to you in person, but I’m hopeful this written out explanation helps clarify things. If more questions arise, just ask! 🙂

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