Wondering how you can revamp your early childhood classroom this year? Reach way back in your supply closet, past the iPads and crayons, and grab the bingo chips.


It’s safe to say many teachers have a bucket of translucent bingo chips sitting in the back corner of a math shelf (possibly collecting dust). Although technology has changed the classroom experience for good, there’s no faux pas in turning to the old, faithful bingo chips. Plus, we’ve got great news: They don’t have to be reserved for math tasks or the traditional bingo game experience.

Here are 10 ways to use the translucent (and inexpensive) beauties to support early childhood literacy instruction:

  1. Evidence markers. We often ask students to show where they found something in text. What better way to examine student thinking than to have them place a bingo chip directly over the evidence in the excerpt?
  1. Student conferencing aid. As educators, we constantly run the race against time. A quick way to assist with the editing step in the writing process is to draw attention to specific portion of text with a bingo chip. Place it on the student’s writing to let them know they need to review and edit that section of their writing. Try this: “Kyle, your writing is showing such growth. I bet if you gave some attention to punctuation at the end of sentences, it could be even stronger. I placed three bingo chips that show where you might want to make some changes in punctuation.”
  1. Word counters in sentences. Students’ minds work faster than their hands as they write. When crafting sentences, whether it is a complete-sentence answer to a question or a super sentence to improve contextual writing, give students bingo chips to mark each word. This will ensure their thoughts match what is on the paper.
  1. Paragraph markers. Early childhood literacy instruction lays the foundation for many complex concepts like understanding paragraphs within a structure of writing. The first step is to have students identify paragraphs. Bingo chips can be used to practice the basic identification of sections, but can easily transcend into “Put a marker on the paragraph that best explains…”
  1. Start, stop, and space markers in writing. Bingo chips create a visual for early writers, when learning that we write from left to right. Put a chip to the left side of the paper and another one to the right, as students begin producing longer writing samples. This also helps students understand that a period does not belong at the end of a line just because it is the end of the paper — it teaches them that just like in reading, when one line is complete, they should start back at the left.
  1. Start, pause, and stop markers when reading. For many students, vague directives like, “Read silently for 15 minutes” can be very stressful. As a way to differentiate for all students, try having students read incrementally by identifying a starting and stopping spot with bingo chips. Once they have read that section, mark the next section, and so on, until silent reading period has ended.
  1. Details in text markers. The ultimate goal of learning to read is reading to learn. Bingo chips can help students remember details visually as they read text. Unlike a highlighter, bingo chips can move around on the page. When learning about the difference between details and key details, the movable chips can come in handy.
  1. Taking turns for oral language development. Make this task more than, “Turn and talk to a partner.” Provide students with discussion stems marked by bingo chips. Students can be responsible for equity of voice in their discussions by taking turns selecting the corresponding bingo chips for discussion stems.
  1. Formative assessment. Incorporate bingo chips in your daily learning checks. Whether it means placing the chip on specific words or using them to count out syllables, there are plenty of uses for bingo chips to assist your instructional next steps.
  1. Retell strategy. Having students explain what happened in the beginning, middle, and end of a story can be made easy with bingo chips. These visual reminders help students keep track of where they are in the recalling of details.

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