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Sentence BINGO

March 23, 2015

Oh, if only there were more hours in the day! I have so many posts that I need to write about the sessions that I attended at #CSCTFL15 last week. It was an excellent conference, and I left with loads of great ideas! This particular #CSCTFL15 share is another one from Mira Canion's presentation on Deepening Reading Comprehension One Drop at a Time. Click here to read a post sharing a different idea from the same presentation.

The problem with BINGO

Once we realize that language is acquired as we are exposed to language in context that we understand, we often find that traditional language-class games like BINGO no longer have a place in our classes– at least not from the perspective of language teaching and learning. In traditional BINGO, a teacher calls out a word (in Spanish or English) and students mark the same word on their boards, which are filled either with pictures or with the translation of the words that the teacher is calling out.

Traditional BINGO might help students to memorize vocabulary words short-term, but it's not doing much of anything for students' developing mental representation of language. The brain needs "communicatively embedded input that is comprehensible" (Bill VanPatten) to process in order to create language in their heads.

What is Sentence BINGO?

To expose students to language in context, Mira plays Sentence BINGO! Instead of calling out isolated words, she calls out complete sentences. In the session, Mira's shared the example of adapting a clothing bingo game to put it in context. She began with BINGO boards that had images of various articles of clothing in each of the BINGO squares. Students were supposed to mark "shirt" or "pants" or "hat" on their boards as the teacher called them out.

To turn the images into sentences, Mira drew in price tags with different values on each article of clothing. Instead of calling out "pantalones" (pants), she would call out, "Compraste los pantalones que costaban cuarenta y cinco dólares" (You bought the pants that cost $45.00.)

Variations on Sentence BINGO

As with standard classroom BINGO, there are a few ways that you can play:

  1. Students are looking at pictures, Teacher describes pictures with complete sentences.
  2. Students are looking at sentences in English, Teacher calls out sentences in Spanish.
  3. Students are looking at sentences in Spanish, Teacher calls out sentences in English.

Of these three options, I definitely prefer the images option. I'm not scared of using translation (especially when used to establish meaning or check for comprehension), but translation-based activities are not my preferred use of class time.

Fiesta Fatal Sentence BINGO

I loved the Sentence BINGO so much that I asked Mira if she wouldn't mind me re-creating and posting a clothing BINGO game so that my readers could see an actual example of the activity. Instead, she suggested that I make a Sentence BINGO set for her most recently published novel, Fiesta Fatal. How could I refuse?! I have already posted one activity for Fiesta Fatal, and many readers have asked if I have any more because the Teacher's Manual is not yet published. Mira shared some copyrighted illustrations with me in order to create the BINGO set, so I am so excited that I am able to share this activity for FREE with my readers as they wait for the Teacher's Manual. It contains 48 event cards and 35 unique BINGO boards.

How to make Sentence Bingo boards

So, how did I make those boards? And how can you make your OWN sentence BINGO boards? Warning- it's quite time consuming!

Begin by deciding what sentences you are going to use! I have found that 60 sentences makes for a good game, in terms of timing. In order to provide students with repeated exposure to a limited set of linguistic features (thereby maximizing the 'processability' of the language), you might choose just 3-5 sentence frames to work with, and switch out the variables. For example:

  • You bought the shoes that costed $30.00.
  • You bought the pants that costed $10.00.
  • He didn't buy the shirt that costed $21.00.
  • I didn't buy the hat that costed $50.00.

In those examples, you can see that I am working with a single sentence frame, but making slight changes to it: the subject, negation, the price, the item.

Adapt existing boards: the easier way

The easiest way to create a set of boards would probably be to adapt existing boards, just like Mira did. Add elements to each picture (like Mira did with the price tags) so that you can describe each one with a complete sentence.

Create your own boards: the complicated way

Creating boards from scratch is VERY time-consuming, but I do enjoy doing it! As I had 35 students in each of my classes, I would need to make sure that I have 35 unique BINGO boards: yes, that means manually plopping 24 pictures (plus one free space image) onto each of 35 boards, always scrambling around the order so that no two boards are alike. So, you need:

  • 60 sentences
  • 60 matching images
  • 35 cards
  • 25 images per card (24+ 1 free space).

I have also found that it is helpful to make a 'key' for your students, so that they can accurately interpret the images that you use in your sentences.

While I have been doing this digitally, you might find that it is actually easier to print out sets of each image, cut them up, and have a student help you arrange and paste them on boards, then either photocopy or laminate them!

Here are some of the games that I have created:

More input-friendly twists to favorite class games

If you've followed me for any length of time, you know that I love to [try to] find ways to legitimize classic language class games. See these posts to learn about some of my favorite twists:

Note: Elizabeth Dentlinger also attended Mira's session and shared her takeaways in this post!

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