Writing bingo

I’ve got a pre-intermediate teenage class at the moment, and I’m finding it a bit difficult to engage them in class, so when this activity worked well with them the other day, I was over the moon!

It started because I was annoyed with them speaking too much Russian, so I asked them to spend five minutes writing about their last holiday to give me time to calm down/think/work out how to get them to speak more English. They couldn’t show the story to anyone else. After a bit of protesting, they did as I asked, with two students seeming to compete over who could write  the shortest story. While they were writing, I did too:

My last holiday was in Germany. I went with my friend Catherine. We visited Munich for three days, then went to the Alps. In the evenings we went to different restaurants, and one night we went to the cinema. In Munich we went sightseeing. In the Alps we visited two beautiful castles, called Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. We went everyone by train. It was very cold, but the snow was beautiful. I went to my friends’ wedding too.

After five minutes, they turned to page 17 of the New English File Pre-Intermediate Student’s Book and looked at the following questions:

Holiday questions from NEF Pre-Int SB p17


They had to add any information which they had not already included. This is what I added to my story:

We stayed at two hostels. We didn’t have any problems and we had a really good time.

For the next stage I drew a table on the board. It had all of the students’ names, plus mine.

I asked the students to think of three words they thought might be in my story and write them down. For example, ‘friend’, ‘walk’, ‘beach’. I read my story aloud, and they had to cross out any word from their list they heard. They got one point each for the words they had predicted correctly. I also got points for every word the students had correctly predicted. For example: A got 2, S got 1, R got 0, M got 1 and D got 3, so I got 7.

We repeated this around the class. Students with longer stories tended to get more points because there was more chance the predicted words would be in their stories.

Once they realised what was going on, the students were competitive, engaged, and eager to read their stories. Russian disappeared completely for the 40 minutes this activity took. For homework, I gave them the chance to improve their stories before I looked at them. Three of them did this (out of five), including one of the students who had been involved in the ‘can I write the shortest’ competition – he ended up writing over 100 words, and it was excellent.

This is definitely an exercise I will use again in future, and I hope it’s useful to you as well (if you can understand it!). 

To finish off, here’s a gratuitous picture of one of the beautiful castles:


41 thoughts on “Writing bingo

  1. Terrific activity Sandy! I might have to borrow this 🙂 I’m sure the adult learners in my class will enjoy this too. Fortunately I don’t have the problem with them using their L1 as it’s a multilingual background group.


  2. It was a great idea! I’ve been having the same problem with some of my teen students. So, I will try it!
    Daisy, from Brazil.


  3. me parece estupenda esta idea, ahora mismo empezare a escribir una historia con las palabras que conozco y a ver como queda. gracias


  4. love this idea!!
    I do a similar activity with my FCE group. They write between 100 and 150 words of an anecdote from a holiday then i share out the stories 4 per group and letter them A, B, C, D and the students write 10 questions in the style of a FCE Reading Part 3 e.g Who had an accident on holiday? etc… Then we ‘test’ each other…It’s a nice way to get the students to pay an interest in each others work and they are also much quicker to find mistakes when it’s not their work!!


    1. Susannah,
      I’ve just tried it out with my class. I teach in a public school, so 28 people. It worked really well, the students enjoyed it.
      First, we all wrote our bits and I demonstrated the activity by reading my own story, then I grouped them, 5 together. They shared the stories inside their groups. When giving (anonymous) feedback on the activity, they were all very positive about it, only 4 people complained about the noise level.


  5. I just loved it. I have problems dealing my Arab students.I am a non Arab ! ! Thanks a lot for sharing such a wonderful idea.


  6. I have the same problem with some of my teenage students. They seem to think they know a lot and should be placed in a higher level.
    It’s a Very good idea and requires no preparation, just what I like. Thanks for sharing


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