Skip to main content

BINGO! as a springboard to writing

November 23, 2011

This is my attempt at legitimizing a fun activity (BINGO) that doesn't actually help students learn language. BINGO works well for review, as a P.A.T. option, or for a sub plan activity... but language acquisition? The value is about ZERO.

Licensed Image 233893963 by happy_author from Adobe Stock

Before you play BINGO

There are three things that you'll need to do before class to make sure that you're ready to play: first, create a word list; second, choose a rubric; third, make a plan for BINGO chips.


Your word lists can be high frequency words, topic-specific words, or filled with completely random words and phrases! Typically, I projected a list of all of the Core Vocabulary words that we had covered in class thus far in the year. Other times, I created a Word Cloud by copying and pasting a recent text from class–or several recent texts–into an online word cloud generator.

Either way, you’ll need to have a set of words and phrases ready for your students to choose for (40+ will make for a more competitive game), and a way for them to see them so that they can choose which ones to fill in (I relied on projecting the list or word cloud).


Once you have your word list all set, decide whether you want to assess your students' writing or not and, if so, how. I have used proficiency-based rubrics, Six Traits Writing rubrics, and no rubrics for when the writing piece is meant to be a springboard into something else, but not assessed. Learn more about how I assess in reference to proficiency here.


You will need 25 BINGO chips per student (just in case!). These could be actual BINGO chips if you’re a fancy pants, or it could be torn-up pieces of paper (let the students take care of that!). If you want a long-term, cheap solution, you can laminate sheets of colored paper and cut them up into square BINGO chips.

How to play BINGO

In class, distribute one BINGO sheet to each student, and provide each student with 25 BINGO chips.

Need a paperless version? No problem! I've got a free and editable Google Slides version ready for you!

Fill in the BINGO boards

Project the word list or word cloud, and tell students to fill in their BINGO board with words or phrases from the list. They can use any of the words that they wish, and they may write them anywhere they wish.

Choosing words to call out

Once all students’ forms are filled, play BINGO! There are quite a few different ways that you can call out the words:

  1. Pick them from a hat: If you were thinking ahead, you might have printed a copy of the word list and cut it up, so that you could draw each word or phrase from a bowl.
  2. Pick one at random: Just look at the list and call out a word– just make sure your students aren’t shouting out what they need to win (tell them that you WON’T call a word if you hear it shouted out!).

Calling out words

  1. L1 or L2?: You can call the words in L2 and have students mark them in L2 on their boards, or call them in L1 and have them mark in L2.
  2. Read a sentence: Make up a sentence on the spot that includes the word (but no other words from your list!) so that students have to listen critically to pick out the word.
  3. Read a text: Read a story aloud, as is done with this ready-to-go STRIP BINGO activity.)

How much BINGO to play?

Play several rounds WITHOUT having students clear their boards. In order to do this, we play until a student gets one BINGO, then until a different student gets two BINGOs, then either "four corners" or "top and bottom rows", then "blackout" (if you want to spend that much time playing...I never do).

We played BINGO... time to WRITE!

Then, put the fun and games aside.

Once you've played for as long as you want, have students choose one of their BINGO rows (most students should have at least one by now; if they don't, have them choose their row that is closest to completion). If it contains the star, they can choose any one word from the rest of the page, that wasn’t circled, to write in the star.

Give them a writing task or assign a free write, and  tell them that they must incorporate each of the five words that are circled at least once in the writing piece. They should underline the five words or phrases in the story as they write.

Have students write for between 7-10 minutes (you choose the exact number!).

Collect and assess... or don't, and use the writing pieces as springboards for more input!

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter and get instant access to 150+ free resources for language teachers.

Subscribe Today