ESL Bingo

Variants of the game of bingo, usually played with bingo cards containing words or phrases instead of numbers, are increasingly popular in educational environments. Many people think of the game as being mainly for K-12 education, for example using sight words (common words that students must learn to immediately recognize in order to read fluently), or math bingo, in which students must write in answers to math problems rather than simply tick off squares. While it is true that bingo is great for K-12, it turns out that the game also works very well in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes too.

One thing that many ESL teachers find is that it can take ESL students some time to learn how to play. The reason is of course that unlike native speakers, ESL students are learning the rules and game mechanics in a foreign language. In fact, it may well turn out that the process of learning how to play offers as much benefit as the actual game itself.

Teachers can make the most of bingo in their classes by preparing before class (by which I mean selecting a vocabulary list, and printing bingo cards using those words). Additionally, it’s usually helpful to review the vocabulary list, particularly any difficult words, with the class before starting the game proper.

The first one or two times that you play, you will probably find the game takes a long time, because students are still learning the rules – you may even want to have students play in small teams, or allow them to help each other. After playing a couple of times, the pace will pick up, and you’ll be able to fit a game of bingo into a few minutes. Introducing bingo to ESL lessons can work well, and as well as the direct educational benefits, if played at end of each class, can provide students feeling positive, happy, and eager for the next class.

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