Setting the Stage: Warmups, Bellringers, DoNows

I’m a big fan of consistency and I know my kids are too.

They like to know the routine and how things are going to roll out each day. When I first started teaching high school 2 years ago, I did bellringers, but I wasn’t consistent, so of course, kids hated them or didn’t do them.

This year I started with a different method. I took all the feedback I’d received over the past 2 years and put it all together with the goals I had for my teaching this year. Students really complained about the “Artist Mondays” I had done before – they thought they were boring and irrelevant. Students didn’t like to participate in feedback because it was inconsistent and they struggled to work out their own solutions. My goals were to incorporate more explicit growth mindset work and expose them to more artists that looked and sounded like them.

So I planned for each day to have a theme:

  • Artist Mondays

  • Tedtalk Tuesdays

  • Quotation Wednesdays

  • Growth Mindset Thursdays

  • Feedback Fridays

Once I’d figured out the flow of things, I looked to my scope and sequence to figure out Artists that connected to the larger unit and I looked to my print resources in my classroom (Scholastic Art Magazines) as a guide. This way I could always use the Magazine for reading or Visual Thinking Strategy Activities or Responding Activities.

Artist Mondays

Here’s how that worked out:


  • How to Read Art: David Hockney
  • Urban Art: Jenny Holzer
  • Elements & Principles: Van Gogh

Collage: Harlem Renaissance: Romare Bearden


  • American Storytellers: Faith Ringgold
  • Portrait Art: Kehinde Wiley
  • Persian Art: Working with Pattern: Shirin Neshat

Social Issue: Ai Wei Wei


  • Alexander Calder
  • Red Grooms
  • Elizabeth Catlett
  • Egyptian Sculpture

Stop Motion: Tim Burton


  • The Art of Cartooning: Charles Shulz
  • The Art of the Campaign: Shepard Fairey
  • The Art of Drawing: DaVinci
  • Beyond the Selfie: Chuck Close

Printmaking: Japanese Prints


  • Fantasy Faces of Arcimbaldo: Arcimbaldo
  • Painting Right Now: Kerry James Marshall
  • Georgia O’Keefe
  • Rene Magritte

Student Directed 

  • Picture Book Illustration: Maurice Sendak
  • Photojournalism: Dorothea Lange
  • Edward Hopper
  • Jean Michel Basquiat

Once students hit the end of the student directed unit and enter into the student proposal unit, students will have some choices in this warmup – I haven’t completely figured it out yet, but I’m planning on getting student input on which artists and who we should look at. Maybe a student will plan out the remainder of the year?

Tedtalk Tuesdays

When I got to the tedtalks, I just looked through the ted website and found a variety of tedtalks by folks that looked interesting or I had watched before. I tried to incorporate different things – not just artists – but things about happiness and about sleep. I tried to look at the time of the year and think about students’ needs. I obviously put in a ton of artists – like today’s tedtalk from JR – and others. Students really are loving watching them. After watching, they respond to a short question prompting them to leave some evidence too – like do you think art can change the world? why or why not?

Quotation Wednesdays

Wednesday’s quotations are mainly from artists and writers. They are also response questions with some evidence. Do you agree with the artist? What does this mean?

Growth Mindset Thursdays

Thursday’s Growth Mindset questions are a lot of goal setting and thinking about priorities at the beginning but also prompt students to think about ways they can plan for practice and improvement.

Feedback Fridays

The Feedback Friday questions are a rotation of questions from the feedback board from last year. I shared these in  Feedback: Top 3 Methods for Me (so far).

Students have reported that they really enjoy the warm ups so far and they have really gotten into the habit of responding in thoughtful ways. They enjoy that their thoughts can be honest and open while also being prompted for some meaningful explanations. I’m looking forward to the connections students make later on as they create – when they ask to rewatch a tedtalk or dig into an artist a little deeper.

Eventually I will create a calendar or document that has everything in it!

How do you set the stage in your classroom? Do you do bellringers? 

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