4 Challenges Language Educators Face and How to Overcome Them Using Bingo

Teaching a different language is not easy.  Just like anything else, it requires practice and patience on both the student and teacher’s part.  Many times, this also leads to boredom. But it doesn’t have to.  Here are some unique challenges that World Language teachers often face and ways that Bingo can be used to overcome them.

Challenge #1:  Instant Word Recognition

As any reading teacher can attest, instant word recognition can be a challenge even in the native language classroom, let alone expecting it of students learning a foreign language.  However, being able to instantly read a word is a critical cognitive process that must occur before meaning can be made.

Solution:  Create bingo cards in the foreign language.  Tell students that for the first game, you will call each word  and they will have to find it on their bingo card in the amount of time you choose, say 5 seconds for example.  Count down 5 seconds and then call the next word.  Continue until someone goes bingo, then play again, this time counting down a lesser amount of time.  By having to find the translated words faster each time, instant word recognition will be increased.

You can also switch it up based on student need by calling words in their native language, showing a picture in place of the word you call, or creating cards of a smaller size (like 3×3) to increase the number of games you can fit in.

Challenge #2:  Building Sustainable Vocabulary

Getting students to instantly recognize words in a foreign language is one thing, getting them to use words accurately in context and remember them is another thing.  Too often, vocabulary is taught using auditory and verbal methods.  However, it is a common statistic in educational research that 65% of students are visual learners. A picture might be worth a 1,000 words but sometimes you just need it to be worth one- the one you are teaching.

Solution: Create picture bingo cards.  Play bingo by calling words in the foreign language.  Kids then need to get their cognitive gears in motion by first thinking about what the word means and then find the picture that corresponds on their bingo card.  And when a child gets a bingo, you get some extra bang for your game-playing buck by having them recite the words that they used to go bingo out loud. This not only provides some extra practice for them, but gives you a quick assessment of their understanding which you can use for future planning.

Challenge #3:  Creating Home to School Connections

Any experienced teacher will tell you the value of building bridges between home and school.  At-home practice is critical in any subject area and a world language is no exception.  But this can be difficult since most of the time, the student has no one at home who speaks the language they are studying in school.

Solution: Siobhan K., a Spanish teacher in Verona, Wisconsin has a great way to connect the work they do in school to the work they do at home.  She creates bingo games using words, pictures, or both to play with her kids at school.  She then sends the kids home with their bingo cards for additional practice.

Siobhan writes, “We always encourage our students to become the teacher at home.  Teaching their family members what they are learning in class helps them master the material faster.  That allows us to blend their new vocabulary with what they already know so we can incorporate more modalities (writing and speaking and more advanced reading) in our curriculum.”

Challenge #4: Teaching a Logographic Language

Teaching a different language where both languages have the same alphabet is challenging in and of itself.  Teaching a different language with different characters adds whole new dimension.
Solution: Create bingo cards in the logographic languages like Chinese, Japanese or Hindi.  Then, apply the same solutions of practice, visuals, and additional home practice.
Liz S., a Japanese World Language teacher in Sydney, Australia, uses bingo with her high school Juniors to reinforce vocabulary.  For her Senior Japanese students, she takes a different approach.  Liz uses a list of Japanese grammar structures to create bingo cards.  Students then use these grammar structures in each cell of the bingo card as cues for sentence creation.
 Here’s to fun and learning in the World Language classroom!
See how to Create Custom Bingo Cards for your World Language Classroom!

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