Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bingo as an Educational Game

Bingo is a fun game that most everyone knows how to play. Now is it also a great learning tool.

Why is the Bingo format such a great educational tool to use?

1. BINGO IS EASY TO MAKE. I have Bingo playing cards already printed out so that I can quickly grab them, add the information and we can be ready to play in no time at all. Several web sites have printable Bingo playing cards. However, I have found that I prefer my own. I make them in three forms:

a. The traditional 25 space card that we are all familiar with. This is good for times when the information being put on the spaces is not too large.

b. A 16 space card (four rows of four spaces in each row). This is a form to use when there is more information to be placed in each space or when larger pictures are being put in the spaces.

c. A 9 space card (three rows of three spaces in each row). This is a good form for introducing young children to Bingo. Since the card is simpler it is easier for them to find the proper space to mark.

One of the reasons I like to make my own Bingo cards is I do not like the word BINGO printed above the columns. Usually this is not needed as players will search the entire card for the proper answer/space to mark. On the rare occasion that there is very few answers being drilled, but I want to use a 25-space card, I would then use letters to identify the columns. However, I tried to make the letters more meaningful.

For example: I made a Bingo game to drill the notes on the scale for my children when they began piano lessons. Since there are only seven possible answers: a, b, c, d, e, f, and g, I did mark the columns. But I used the letters M-U-S-I-C. Then the calling cards had each possible combination: They had pictures of a scale with one note indicated on each card. I also wrote one of the column letters in the corner of each card....five columns times seven possible answers equals 35 cards were created for the game.

And yes, I do on some games make a FREE SPACE in the center. Again, this depends on how much information I have to put on the card and how many spaces I need to use.

2. BINGO CAN BE PLAYED WITH ANY NUMBER OF PLAYERS. Bingo works wonderful in large and small groups, so it is good for the homeschool family as well as for use in a classroom. Just create enough playing cards (each one should have the information arranged differently on the cards) and away you go.

One question I often get asked is "How can I play games with only one child?" My daughter Cortney came up with the solution to this one. One day when she wanted to play a Bingo game and Kyle was not wanting to participate, she decided that her Teddy Bear could play, and she would help him. So she actually played two cards. Then she expanded on this (as she often did on everything). She lined up a whole group of her stuffed animals and dolls and gave them each a card. Of course, she has to help ALL of them. It was often so cute watching her play with them. She talked to them, of course, encouraging the ones who were behind and telling the winners to be less boastful. From this day on, we rarely played with only human players at our house....as the children thought more players meant more fun.

This is also a good solution for a player that has trouble "losing." Encourage him to let his toy friends play, and he can just help them. Then he is neither a winner nor a loser, but still gets the drill.

3. THE WINNER IS BASED ON LUCK, NOT ABILITY. Since the luck of having the right spaces on the playing card determines the winner rather than a greater ability, or knowledge, players of differing abilities can all play together. This is especially good for the homeschool family. The whole family can play together and the three year old (who gets assistance) has just as much chance of winning the game as his 13 year old sibling. Older children can play for the review of a skill, the middle child is getting the drill he needs to master the skill and the younger children are getting introduced to the skill.

How much information the little ones absorb was clearly pointed out to me one night. We had made a bird identification Bingo. The playing cards had pictures of birds we had learned about in our Bird Unit. Kyle was only three at the time, so I was not sure how much of the information he was getting from this unit, but he had developed a real interest in watching the birds at our feeder and helping keeping it filled. Then one night we were watching a nature show on foxes, when all of a sudden he jumps up and runs to the TV so excited. He is pointing to a bird shouting, "It's a kingfisher! It's a kingfisher! Just like the one on my card." He had had a favorite Bingo card and none of us knew why, but obviously using the same card every time we played, had made him familiar with the birds on it. He even had to go and dig out his card, just to prove to us all. This event made me much more aware of how much information Kyle was absorbing by just participating with us each day.

For more information on Birds Lotto

4. ALMOST ANY SKILL CAN BE PUT ON A BINGO GAME. From beginning phonics and counting to telling time, counting coins, identifying dog breeds, drilling Spanish words, math facts, history, geography, and on and on.

NOTE: A word of caution. It does make a difference which information you put on the calling cards and which goes on the playing cards. I think I can explain this the best, by sharing the mistake I made. I wanted to drill the children in counting groups of coins. On the playing cards, using some neat coin stampers I had purchased, I put different coin combinations in each of the 16 spaces. Then I wrote the amounts on calling cards. The first time we played, I realized something was wrong. It took the children saying, "This is too hard." for me to realized what the problem was. As I called out "64 cents" they had to search this maze of coins to find the right combination. It was overwhelming to them. So I remade the game. I cut apart the bingo cards and they now became the calling cards. Then as we played, I turned over one coin card, the children carefully counted the coins and then we all found the written amount on our bingo cards. Much smoother play. So think a few minutes before creating the game. The newest information most likely belongs on the calling cards, that can be taken one at a time.

5. BINGO IS GREAT FOR EXPOSING CHILDREN TO INFORMATION. I know that it is not necessary as part of a child's education to know the different breeds of dogs, rarely would they be tested on such information. However, for a well-rounded education, I like to expose them to as much information as I can. By using a Bingo game with pictures of different dogs on each of the playing spaces, the children were introduced to a number of the most common breeds. Since Bingo is not a fast-paced game, we were able to talk about the different breeds as we played. Each of us would share things we knew about them. Then since their interest was captured, I got a number of books on dog breeds on our next trip to the library. The children were excited about getting new information that they could share for the next time we played.

Bingo was such a favorite at our house that one year we had a Bingo Marathon. For several months we kept track of the number of games won by each player. The children were older now and we took all of our Bingo games and placed them in three milk crates. Each evening we would play several rounds of Bingo, selecting a new game for each round. At first I let the winner select which game we would play the next time, but I soon realized they each had a few favorites and we were just playing those games rather than reviewing all of the games as I had intended with this idea. So then we adjusted the rules just a bit. There was no longer a choosing of the game. We simply selected the next game in the crate putting the already played game in the back. When all of the games in one crate had been played we moved on to the next crate. We went through these three crates of games several times in our Marathon. This Marathon kept the children asking to play Bingo in "non-school" hours, especially the child who happened to be behind at the time. Also, during this Marathon, the children decided they did not need the extra competition of Teddy Bears for play. After all, the winner of the Marathon got to chose ANY item from the menu at the Ice Cream Shoppe, while the rest of us got cones. However, the winner did decide to chose the mammoth sundae the children had always drooled over and also ordered extra spoons, so we all shared in the winnings.

I hope that Bingo is enjoyed in each of your homes or classrooms as much as we enjoyed it.

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