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Young Learners

Teaching English to Elementary School Children

April 21, 2009


Bingo is a great game for practising reading and writing. I like it because even students who don't like writing will happily write nine words. I also like it because it can be adapted to almost any written target from single letters to full sentences. Below are three versions of the game that all involve writing, and that can be adapted to various targets.

My basic version of the game consists of students drawing a 3x3 grid in the back of their notebooks. I get a pack of flashcards with pictures of words I want students to practise writing. I shuffle the cards, students say "stop" and I show the picture. The students write the word in their grid. To help weaker students, I write the word on the board bit by bit so they can look to the board for help when necessary. When all have finished we move on to the next picture. This continues until the grid is full. The pictures we have used are put along the bottom edge of the board and numbers 1-9 are written by the cards. To actually play bingo, I use a 10-sided dice which the students take turns to throw. They call out the number thrown, and each student looks at the board to see which picture it is, then finds the word in their grid and circles it. The dice has a zero side which can be lucky or unlucky. If it is lucky, it means the student who threw it can choose any number instead. If it is unlucky it means no word can be circled that go. When a duplicate number is thrown it doesn't count and the dice is passed to another student. When about seven or eight of the numbers have been thrown, I stop the game and students count their bingos.

Version 2: Fill in the grid in the same way. Then again shuffle the cards and have students say "stop". Give the students a hint about the card such as its colour. Students raise their hands and guess which card it is. Once the card has been correctly identified, all students circle that word in their grid. This is a good way to practise language such as colour (It's blue), size (It's big), has (He has a white hat) categories (It's an animal) and other language useful for giving clues. Students can take the role of shuffler and hint-giver.

Version 3: This is good for large classes such as elementary school classes. I usually play this with colours but it could be adapted to other language. Students are given identical 3x3 grids that have colours partly written in. They are written so that each colour is identifiable by the given letters but so that the students have to complete some letters by themselves e.g. p _ _ k, r _ _, b l _ _ k and so on. Students don't write anything at this point. Students are given a small piece of card with a colour on it. The colors are not written but actual blobs of colour. They keep their card a secret from other students. Students mingle. When they find a partner they play scissors, paper, stone. The winner has one guess at their partner's colour (Is it blue?"). They then continue taking turns to guess until one guesses correctly. The students then exchange cards (important to do this) and the student who guessed correctly fills in that colour in their grid. The other student doesn't write anything. Both students then take their new cards and go to find a new partner. Stop the game after a given amount of time, ask students to sit down. They count their bingos. This version is quite complicated and needs demonstrating with two students first but once they get the idea it goes really well. It can run for quite a long time without anyone getting bored and without anyone completing their grid.

Bingo can be played even with complete beginners. As soon as they know the five vowels, in their upper and lower case versions, we can play bingo. The filling in may need to be a simple dictation activity (big a, little i, etc) but otherwise the game can follow the basic version given above. With more advanced students, the grid can be completed with whole sentences rather than just individual words.

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great to know that bingo isn't just played to gamble, but also for students to learn faster and to have fun while learning, this is indeed a good resource for teachers who have kindergarten students

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