Teaching with Bingo

Using bingo to teach a variety of lesson points

Glenn Huntley

If variety is the spice of life, as they say, then a variation of this age-old favorite will fit the bill when lesson ideas are running a bit short. Its beauty is that it's in the form of a familiar game, while being versatile enough to enable you to practice and reinforce a wide range of language and skills. The example given here is designed for teaching street directions, but any other topic can be adapted to the same concept. Whatever the teaching point being covered, it's important to pre-teach the target language first, and to possibly do some preliminary practice. The bingo game would be one of the later stages of the process of covering a language point, usually in conjunction with a number of other activities. With directions language, the minimum requirement for the bingo game to work would be knowledge of basic directions, including relevant prepositions.

In preparing a handout, draw a square grid with about 25 cells (five down and five across), although larger ones would be good for a greater challenge or a longer game. On the same or on another page, draw a simple street map with a variety of locations (shops, hotels etc) that are marked with numbers from 1-25. There should be at least 25 such numbered locations on the map, although having more of them is better.

In the classroom, instruct students to fill each cell in their grid with random numbers from 1-25, or more if there are corresponding numbers on the above-mentioned map. Once they have done this they are ready to start.

The teacher then gives street directions, using the map on the student handout, while the students listen, to find the place that the teacher is referring to. Once students identify the location they can cross-check the number with their own grid and mark it off if it is there. Once they mark off five numbers in a row, they have achieved a bingo and won. The game can then stop there or continue so that other students can achieve a bingo.

With lower-level students, it may be better to stick to giving the locations using prepositions only ("between _____ and _____", "next to", etc). Most students, however, should be able to handle conventional directions ("go up Smith Street, turn left into Jones Street", etc).

A valuable variation to having the teacher act as the caller and reading out the directions, is to have each student read out one set of directions, for a given location. This gives each person more chances to speak and to use the target language, while other students can become accustomed to listening to a greater range of speaking voices and accents.

Once again, other lesson points besides directions are possible. One idea is to have matching pairs of sentences or fragments of sentences in two columns. Conditional sentences for teaching negotiations would lend themselves to this particularly well. The sentences or part sentences have to be matched up, but the caller will only read out the first part, in the first column, so the students have to hurriedly find the numbered matching part in the second column to find the right number and participate in the bingo game.

TEFL.net ESL Reviews & Articles© Glenn Huntley 2007
Glenn taught English in Japan for nine years. He started TeachEnglishInTokyo.com to help others thinking of going to Japan to teach English.