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
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
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
Maybe you can bring Bingo back for the next school year? —Aunt Bingo
your views! Write to Aunt Bingo c/o the Bingo Bugle, P.O. Box 527,
Vashon, Washington 98070, or email her at STENGL456@aol.com. 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