It’s said that once one player got so excited that he’d won, he cried “Bingo” instead of “Beano”. The name stuck.


No, I have not invented this game. The game goes back to the year 1530. That’s when a state-run lotto started in Italy. Then the French picked up the lotto ‘virus’ in the late 1700s. Then it spread all over the planet.

No, (here goes any name of a Dumbledore in ELT you’d kindly suggest), they have not been the first to use this game as an educational tool. Nearly every course book or blog for teachers/learners has a bingo version for speaking/vocabulary/grammar practice, etc (see some links below). In 19 century Germany the game was widely used to teach children their times tables, animals names, spelling, language and history.

And no, I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. I’ve just blended it with the pass-it-round technique to reduce my lesson preparation time, get them more involved, and make it more dynamic and learning rich.

Before the game: make a list of 15 questions that you’d ask your students. It all depends on their level (it could be used for students of any level) and a learning focus (you could focus on grammar revision/vocabulary/skills, etc.).

E.g. if you’d like to focus on tense review, these tense review questions could be handy

Alternatively, get your students to come up with questions they would ask someone they meet for the first time/haven’t seen for ages/ at the interview/ etc. – Specify there should be no ‘yes-no’ questions. Hand out slips of paper and get them to write down their questions. Have some extra slips for fast finishers.

Step 1.

Hand out a sheet of A4 paper to each student. They have to fold it in half 4 times to get a 4 by 4 bingo grid. (This significantly reduces the chance of your students asking for another sheet of paper to redraw the grid because ‘they can’t draw straight lines’).

Step 2.

Ask your students to write down an answer to the first question in any square. Get the students to rotate their grids, and answer the second question, and so on, until all the grids have been filled in with answers. I usually keep the last remaining square for a smiley – what’s your mood right now? (May be used as a free space)


Step 3. 

Students mingle as a whole class and ask each other questions (decide on the number of questions they may ask – e.g. ‘one question per person only’) and cross out the square in the grid if the answer is the same. To win, they must cross off a horizontal/ vertical/ diagonal line of four and shout bingo.

Note: to make sure they do not take an easy way out, specify that they get disqualified if they read out the answers they have to other students. In many cases they should make sure they ask the right questions to elicit the answers they need. You may also introduce a ban on the use of ‘yes-no’ questions. 

Happy teaching! 

* * *

Check out these excellent Bingo versions:

Back-Channel Bingo from Teflwaffle to practise showing interest

Human Bingo from Blog de Cristina to revise irregular verbs


Image: Daniel Simpson,, Creative Commons, modified.


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