Vocabulary Review Bingo

Tracy Bockbrader
Carlton High School
Carlton, MN 55718
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In this review activity students create a bingo board for use in class. Students place words or equations on their board. Then they compete against other students in the class as the teacher reads definitions for the words or equations. The first student with five in a row wins a small prize and the game starts over. It can be played with the students calling out the words as they recognize them or silently.

Learning Goals

This activity is designed for students to keep current on vocabulary the instructor is using in class. It can also be used as a formative assessment. You can check to see if your students really know what you are talking about when you use "science" words. The main focus of this activity is communicating using the language of physics.

Context for Use

I have only had the opportunity to use this activity in the high school setting in a class size of about 25, but imagine it would be adaptable to younger grades and other disciplines. It only takes one class period and easy to place into the curriculum. I usually use it on "fun" days—prior to breaks or holidays. It can also be used as review or preview. Much of what we teach in science involves continued use of vocabulary and this game is a good way to keep the words front and center

Description and Teaching Materials

Prior to activity day the teacher must decide on a list of words and agreed upon definitions for at least 30 words that students will use. You may also print up bingo boards, blank squares, if you wish. Students may make their own board on their own paper if you don't print them.
On game day display only the list of words for students. The student chooses 25 words to place on their board. Stress to them that they must know what the word means as you will be reading the definition and not the word itself. Give an example if needed. (If the word 'house' is on your bingo board, you will hear me say something like, "a structure with four outside walls, a door for entry, many inside rooms, that a family may choose to live in.")
When each student has 25 words on their board begin the game. The teacher chooses a definition and reads it out loud for the class to hear. If the student has the word that corresponds to the definition it is covered, if not no action is taken. Play continues until one student has five spaces in a row covered and calls "bingo".
It is important to check bingos in this game—that's where the discussion and continued learning comes in. Did other students mark that word? Why did the winning student mark it? This way, misconceptions can be corrected before they are too ingrained.
If the student has a valid bingo—have students clear their boards and start again.
As the teacher, your job is to make sure you hit as many words as possible. Sometimes I will keep them on a list and mark as they've been read. Another tactic is to draw them from a container but not mix them back together until all have been read.

Teaching Notes and Tips

After taking the MNStep physics course I realize an even greater need to continue this activity. Students often think they know what a word means or how to calculate it, but do they really? It works on getting them to use the proper vocabulary correctly and search for words if they're using it incorrectly.


Bingo boards are usually collected for a quick scan. Did the student play the game? Are there words that were not used at all? (Students don't know what they mean or how to use them.)

Standards Communicate, justify and defend the procedures and results of a scientific inquiry...using verbal, graphic, quantitative, virtual, or written means. Select and use appropriate numeric, symbolic, pictorial, or graphical representation to communicate scientific ideas, procedures, and experimental results.
Many of the standards also say "explain..." this activity builds vocabulary enabling the student to "explain" many theories, etc.

References and Resources