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Elementary Bingo Ban

Dear Aunt Bingo:
I am an elementary school teacher (grades 4-6) and for a long time have been a big believer in applying “play” to education—meaning that I use games, challenges and competitions as part of my teaching to make learning more fun for the students.
A lot of the techniques I use are things people are quite familiar with, such as spelling bees, awarding “book points” for reading, earning stickers for completing assignments, and so on.
The most popular for the kids are those that include a game of some sort with an element of competition; for example, times-tables challenges where students compete and are eliminated one by one until there are a handful of “winners.”
A favorite type of game of mine for teaching has been Bingo, for two reasons: First, I am a Bingo player myself and enjoy playing; and second, Bingo is very adaptable to a range of educational topics.
Because Bingo is based on a grid pattern, the squares that make up the grid can be filled with numbers, words, phrases, pictures, etc. Depending on the subject being taught for a particular section, I like to include a Bingo game as part of the lesson plan to help reinforce key elements of the subject and award candy, stickers, ribbons or other prizes as the students progress.
Sounds innocent, right? I thought so too—until I recently received several complaints from parents about the Bingo.
After years of including Bingo in my lesson plans, suddenly this year I received comments from several parents that Bingo was a form of gambling and that including it in a classroom setting was inappropriate because it encouraged gambling.
I tried to explain that there was no money involved, prizes were small and that I made sure every student got a prize. But these parents still felt it was wrong. One parent even noted that it was his understanding that I played Bingo outside the classroom for cash prizes, which might be affecting my judgment on this topic. (He had me there. I do know from experience that Bingo is fun!)
Following these conversations, I spoke with a few of my fellow teachers and my principal, and together we came to the conclusion that using Bingo in the classroom was neither crucial nor worth a fight. I have since dropped it from my lesson plans.
I would be interested to know what you think about this, and if you have any teachers (and parents) who read your column who would like to weigh in. My thanks.
—Name and location withheld

Dear Reader:
In my opinion, insisting that Bingo be removed from your classroom is silly. Your argument is a good one; there’s no money involved, no buy-in or wagering, so for me making the connection to gambling is a real stretch.
Plus, how is playing a game like Bingo any different from having a spelling bee or holding a footrace in gym class? In the case of your Bingo games, you are teaching a subject while making sure every student gets a prize. In a spelling bee or a race, there is one winner and multiple losers. Which sounds harsher?
It’s doubtful anyone would fault you for making the decision you did. And it is always good to have parents who are engaged in and attentive to their children’s education—even when you may not always agree with their input.
Maybe you can bring Bingo back for the next school year? —Aunt Bingo

Share your views! Write to Aunt Bingo c/o the Bingo Bugle, P.O. Box 527, Vashon, Washington 98070, or email her at Be sure to include your name and address (you can request that your name not be published), as typically she will not include anonymous letters in her columns.

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