How to Play Bingo in an ESL Class

Close-up of bingo cards.
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Bingo is well-suited to the English as a second language classroom because it can be adapted to practice various grammar topics or vocabulary words. With blank or prefilled bingo cards, your class can practice all the areas of language learning: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Variations on the traditional game of bingo will keep your students engaged and help them actually use the language they learn from their textbooks.

1 Numbers

ESL students often have a difficult time saying certain numbers, such as 13 and 30, as well as discriminating between them when someone says them. Make bingo cards on a 5-by-5 grid that has the numbers your students have been practicing. They might all be numbers in the tens of thousands, for example. You can also call out the numbers and have students write them on blank cards for an additional challenge before they play, or have students read all the numbers back to you when they say they have a bingo.

Vocabulary Builder

2 Vocabulary

You can also play bingo to practice vocabulary. You can create thematic vocabulary bingo cards with pictures or words that relate to a particular category. For example, you might create cards with different types of food on them. Students can also create their own cards either by writing down or drawing the word that they hear you say. They can also try to recall words from a vocabulary category and write them down or draw them on their cards. When you play, you might also show students the word and have them search for the picture, or show them the picture and have them search for the word on their cards.

3 Question Practice

Speaking bingo takes a bit of preparation, but it is a good way to practice asking and answering questions. Select a question type that your class has been practicing, and create answers to it. For example, for a lower-level class, you might choose, “What is your favorite food?” You can create bingo cards with the answers, or you can have students write in their own answers.

4 Variations on Speaking Bingo

Have picture answers to the questions in speaking bingo so students must create the rest of the question themselves when they ask it. For example, if you use the question, “Do you like. . .,” put pictures of different activities in the squares. Students move around the room, asking and answering questions from other students. Students should speak in complete sentences and write the name of the students who answer "yes" to their questions in the appropriate squares.

Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.