ESL Bingo Games

ESL (“English as a second Language”) classes are intended to teach English speaking, reading and writing to people (mainly adults) who do not speak English as their primary or native language. These classes are attended by people who wish to learn Engish for business or professional reasons, for some as a leisure or self-improvement activity, and also, quite frequently, by people who are immigrating to an primarily English-speaking country such as Great Britain or the United States.

It is hard to say if there is such a thing as a typical ESL class – classes can vary greatly depending on how advanced the students are, and the favored approach of the teacher – but most ESL classes involve a variety of different activities including speaking, reading and group activities such as classroom games. There are many different activities that can be done in ESL classes. Generally talking, listening, and reading of course forms an important part of classroom learning, but additionally games and group activities can also be helpful for many ESL students.

There are many different games and group activities that can be introduced into ESL classes, but one particular one that is very popular with many teachers, is the game of bingo. You might assume that bingo is a relatively simple game, but for a non-native speaker, understanding the rules, setting up the game, and then actually playing the game, entirely in the English language, can be quite a challenge.

If you are not familiar with educational versions of bingo, here are the basics:

1. Each student is given a bingo card (also known by some as a “bingo worksheet” or “bingo board”).
2. The bingo cards are printed with a grid of squares. Within each square is a number.
3. The teacher calls out the numbers in random order.  As she does so, teachers mark the corresponding squares off on their cards.
4. The winner is the first student to achieve a winning pattern of marked off squares and shout “Bingo!”.  Exactly what counts as a winning pattern but can be varied, but usually the requirement is something like a line of five items, or two overlapping lines of five items.

While the above explains the basic game, the rules of bingo can easily be adapted to different situations and occasions by teacher. For example, at Christmas or Thanksgiving you might play bingo using bingo cards printed with words and phrases chosen for that holiday (such as “Christmas Tree” and “Sledge”) , rather than the usual numbered bingo cards. Indeed there is no reason why you can’t play bingo using cards printed with English words or phrases at any time of the year. You might assume that obtain such specialized custom bingo cards might be hard – but actually it is very easy and quick for a teacher to print bingo cards on any theme at all using a PC and some bingo card maker software. 

By S. Tanna.
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