Bingo 2.0

I've started playing Bingo with my classes lately. I was wanting something new to do with my students, and I remember someone telling me once that Joe Neilson plays Bingo in his classes. I consider that about as good as it gets for permission to do something.

We played once, but I didn't feel great about it. Yes, kids were thinking about the individual words and trying to match meaning. No doubt it was a net positive experience. But, too much time spent in English, because that's what I was speaking. Class time is precious and I want them processing strings of language as much as possible.

Well, I think I figured out a way to play Bingo, somewhat regularly even (once every week or two for 10-20 minutes) and not feel like I'm wasting our time doing it: Circumlocution.

If I want them to mark the word for "gusano", for example, I could simply say "worm" and they'd have to search for the word that means worm. You might call this Bingo Level 1... processing of words or chunks out of context. Sometimes that's the only clear way to call a word -- by giving it's direct translation. But consider how much more processing happens when the clue for "worm" is "this lives in the dirt" or "this doesn't have legs or arms" or "you can cut this in half and it will survive".

I like to include a couple related words in each list too. For example, if "smells bad" is an item, I may also choose to include "a bad smell", if they're familiar with it. The clue for the former may be "If a person doesn't shower for many days he probably BLANK" whereas the latter might sound something like "A person who never showers has this". It could also be different forms of the same verb (Ex. He/She traveled, I Traveled). This however makes circumlocution trickier and I've found it easier to give direct translations in these more limited cases. I only do a couple of these "trickier" ones, if any, the rest ideally being words that have emerged in class the last few weeks, peppered with a few oldies for good measure.

To break down the process quickly...

-Students pull out their Bingo sheet. Students filling out their Bingo sheet is the most time-consuming part of the preparation process, so I use the same list for a month or so. If it is a new list, they'll need blank templates and the list written or projected. I always make a list of about 25-30 words, so they have to choose which words to put on their Bingo sheet with a few left over.

-At the same time, I pass out the container of little chips they will use to mark their words. This gets passed around quickly with each student grabbing a small handful.

-I project the word list up, and we might quickly go through and translate each word together or maybe just the lesser-known words.

-I start reading words/clues and do this until someone calls "Lo Tengo". I have a neighbor help verify their sheet while they read the words they marked. This is why you must write down the words when you say them, so you know if you actually gave that word or not. I would say 1 out of 5 students' Bingo is not awarded because they marked a wrong word. I went and bought a big bag of Mexican candy from nearby Tienda Tonita's to have some sort of small prize for when they do win, the only time I give material prizes like this in class.

-Leave 1-2 minutes to get stuff picked up and make sure that all the little chips are off desks and floor. Nobody leaves until I give the green light.

Here is what a typical list looks like in my classes. Notice the variety... a couple colors, animals, numbers, foods, verbs (conjugated and not), a few word chunks, etc. Of course I could have added any kind of language. I see I failed to include conjunctions and interjections and prepositions in this particular list. But ultimately it doesn't matter too much which words you have because the language they are interpreting when you are doing circumlocution will be most valuable.

What I probably like most about playing Bingo is that it's super easy to execute. The kids are focused and quiet, listening to my clues and searching through their words. Everyone knows how to play Bingo. No arbitration necessary. It allows me to hone my circumlocution skills. And it's pretty fun.

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