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April 2020 - Year 22 - Issue 2

ISSN 1755-9715

Let’s Make Bingo Great Again! – Teaching Lexis and Functional Language Has Never Been Easier

Katarzyna (Kasia) Warszyńska has been a Language Trainer for more than 9 years, having taught in Poland, Russia, and the UK. She now helps adult learners in companies where she teaches mostly Business English and pronunciation. As a teacher trainer she travels around Poland and Europe with her signature teacher training workshops on teaching grammar, lexis, and the new take on Bingo. She has been a speaker at a number of prestigious conferences. She is now working on an online course for English teachers on how to teach pronunciation creatively. She records educational videos with Oxford Online English on YouTube, and writes articles for Horyzonty Anglistyki. Linkedin: Fb:  Instagram: , email:

I’ve got a question for you. Think Bingo…. What comes to your mind?  An old game? A boring game? A game that works once or twice but then gets pointless? Well, I have similar thoughts. Scratch that. I HAD similar thoughts. I decided to take the principle of the game but change EVERYTHING else. What came out was a completely new and innovative way of looking at a very traditional tool. I wanted to make my Bingo a challenge. I wanted my students to take equal part in the game. I wanted them to do the talking, force them to communicate with each other, and win a “line” of Bingo in the process.

What I would like to share with you in this article is one of the methods of how to use my new take on Bingo to make studying lexis and functional language enjoyable. The technique presented below is part of a 4-hour teacher training program I offer to teachers of all languages (in Polish in Poland, and in English abroad/during conferences). The workshop is extremely interactive as teachers use the tools and methods, experience them first-hand, assess them, and brainstorm potential new ideas on how to use them. That  is why I will try to explain this method in writing as clearly as possible.


Traditional Bingo

First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. How to play the original Bingo?  All students receive a Bingo sheet with specific lexis on it. To make explaining easier, let’s assume they receive a 4x4 sheet (16 fields) with numbers on them from 1-20.  Each sheet is different: the numbers are arranged randomly, some are missing. After all, you cannot fit 20 numbers in 16 boxes, right? Which means that one student may have the number 17 on their sheet, whereas another may not. What is important to remember is the fact that all students have the same pool of lexical items – in this case numbers from 1-20. The teacher (or the      student who is the Bingo Caller) now reads out random numbers from 1 to 20.  The rest of the group, individually, look at their boards, listen to the numbers, and cross out the ones they hear. The goal of the activity is to have one full line crossed out. It can be diagonal, horizontal, or vertical. As soon as they cross out the last number that forms that line, they yell “Bingo!” and the winner is found.


Rigged Bingo          

Let’s change that original Bingo concept, and make it more student-oriented. The activity I will describe I’ve called Rigged Bingo. Why rigged? Because the outcome of the game is clear from the very start, the point here is to reach that outcome. I play this version with e.g. language of debates / language of opinion. During the previous lesson students analyse various functional language connected with debating. We look at various phrases for expressing thoughts (e.g.  To my mind, I believe that, I would like to point out that…)¸ agreement (I couldn’t agree more, I completely agree, great minds think alike),  disagreement ( I couldn’t disagree more, I hate to pick holes in your argument but…),  partial agreement ( I agree to some extent), interruption ( Sorry for barging in…),  asking for clarification ( I’ve lost my train of thought, I don’t follow you),  summarizing (So what have we decided so far, let’s agree to disagree).  The list is long - approximately 40 phrases. How to help students learn/revise so much functional language?

I prepare Bingo boards (you could use a free webpage for this: by copying all 40 phrases in. Then I choose a 5x5 sheet which means each board will have 25 phrases from the total 40. When the lesson starts I tell the students we will conduct some debates to practice the language we looked at the session before.  This is what I do:

  1. Put students into pairs (or fours if it’s a really big group);
  2. Have the students decide if they are for or against – they do not know the topic of the discussion yet!  If it’s a pair of students – one will be for, the other against. If the students are playing in fours – two should choose to say “aye”, two “nay”;
  3. Give the topic of the debate, for example:  Cats are better than dogs; Traditional shopping takes more time than online shopping;
  4. Students prepare their arguments individually according to their assigned role in point 2;
  5. Give out Bingo boards. Each student marks a line (e.g. horizontal, vertical, diagonal) that they would like to use in the conversation, that will be appropriate for their arguments. It’s important to have students choose a line that will have phrases from more than one group (e.g. thoughts, partial agreement, disagreement)  - see illustration;
  6. Students conduct the conversation in pairs (or fours). They use the arguments they prepared and the phrases from the line they’ve marked;
  7. The goal of the activity is to have both students in the pair use the functional language and ultimately get the Bingo (use all phrases from the lines).

As I wrote before, the outcome of the game is clear from the very start: the line is marked, Bingo is rigged. The point is to have students use that lexis.


Why play Rigged Bingo?

First of all, it doesn’t overwhelm the students. The traditional method of teaching such lexis usually means giving the students a long list and telling them: “use these phrases in a conversation”. Some do, some don’t. It’s usually difficult to assess how much a student actually learns in such an exercise. With Rigged Bingo the 40-phrase list is limited to 25 (the number of phrases on a board) which is then limited to 5 (the line the student chooses). To complete the activity, the student must use these 5 phrases, so we are sure the vocabulary is used.

Secondly, the board can be used with both stronger and weaker students within one group. If you have fast-finishers, students who have a higher language competence – pair them and give each of them two lines to complete the task, instead of one.

Thirdly, the same board can be used for multiple debates in one class. The students can simply mark different lines for different conversations. That way students consciously use the list of phrases they were provided with the lesson before, integrate them step by step, and slowly learn them actively. This also saves paper – a list of 25 phrases can be used extensively in one class or in consecutive classes.

I use such boards regularly in my classes (I use this method and other Bingos with this specific lexis) as any text, video, or question discussed in class can be turned into a debate. My students are used to receiving such boards and know the drill when they get them.

Nevertheless, the target lexis can be changed! We can easily play Rigged Bingo with idiomatic expressions, language of negotiations, any role-plays e.g. shopkeeper-client, landlord-tenant – all we have to do is use language specific for such conversations and include questions. In this case you can create two sets of boards – one with language only for a landlord, one with lexis for the tenant, and hand out specific boards to specific students where they need to conduct a conversation and use the language they marked in a line.

I love teaching through this new Bingo method. Rigged Bingo is the tip of the iceberg! There is so much more that can be done to activate all students, make them use the target language and - most importantly - learn it.


Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Methodology and Language for Secondary course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Teaching Advanced Students course at Pilgrims website.

Tagged  golden classics 
  • Let’s Make Bingo Great Again! – Teaching Lexis and Functional Language Has Never Been Easier
    Katarzyna Warszynska, Poland

  • Golden Classics
    Marta Rosinska, Poland