Bell Ringers

The beginning of class is a difficult time. I’m required to stand in the hall outside my classroom from bell to bell to help monitor students as they move from class to class. This leaves my own students on their own in the classroom. I’ve considered passwords and having students wait in the hall until class starts, but neither has much appeal to me or, honestly, I think will go over well considering my school climate. So, what to do to get students focused on the language without me or my guidance, settled and primed to learn, and quiet until I am ready to go – taking attendance, handling late work and missed assignments, paperwork, etc.?

I have used Memrise recently. I’ve also used Quizlet and Gimkit. I’d love to use Duolingo (maybe available by September 2019?).

Memrise was my favorite. We started each class with 10 minutes of play time. Students reviewed vocabulary at their own speed. All I required was 7,500 points by the end of each week – I didn’ rightly care what words were seen or even learned/memorized. But, the benefits were enormous! Students began recognizing words they’d only seen on Memrise in other tasks. Their spelling of Latin words improved. They used more words in the target language, whether explicitly taught in class or not. But, recently, a lot of negatives have creeped up, specifically inappropriate memes, words, and students being friended by and followed by folks they don’t know. It is enough for me to consider the value of the site versus the online safety of my students… and maybe look elsewhere.

Quizlet is also good, but limited by a set of flashcards. For specific thematic vocabulary, I love it more than Memrise, but the benefits my students gained with Memrise haven’t been seen when they play on Quizlet.

Gimkit is also good, but because it requires some prep from me to really be useful and/or just uses a Quizlet list, it is not as useful for starting class as I would like my everyday bell ringer to be.

This is not to say Quizlet and Gimkit don’t have their place… they do. I love them! But, not for bell ringers.

I’ve seen what Duolingo does in other languages, and can’t wait to try it in Latin, but don’t know what benefits students may gain from it long-term. When my middle schoolers play it in their Interest Block class, they seem to enjoy it, but complain about the speed of new language introduced and feelings of failure – not knowing the words or phrases well enough to guess meaningfully – leading to them giving up.

Now, I’m back to looking at Freerice. I used to assign this for extra credit, but recent changes seem to suggest it might be useful for a more regulated vocabulary review. I’d like that since students help end world hunger by playing. A win-win. I do like the repetition presented in this game, as well as the individualized progression of word difficulty it uses, but I would love more spelling activities instead of straight multiple-choice recognition.

Ideally, I’m looking for an online, out-of-my-hands / no prep, vocabulary-type game students can complete on their own and through which I can track their progress. I want the bell-ringer, itself, to be a routine – consistent and predictable. I don’t necessarily want the vocabulary tied to my in-class plans. We have other activities to learn and review those words.

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