11. Using BINGO Cards for Reading and Vocabulary in Middle School ELA

Listen up to hear a great idea to motivate middle school students when it comes to reading independently or learning new vocabulary words.  With an easy printable BINGO card, ELA class can become much more fun!  Be sure to check out all of our shownotes, including links to free printables on our blog at https://elacoreplans.com/bingo-cards-in-middle-school-ela/


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BINGO Cards in Middle School ELA!

How we started to use Bingo cards in Our ELA Classrooms

In an effort to find a fun way to encourage students to read, we started using an ongoing Bingo game for novels.  We used these cards for student’s independent novel choices and book club books. The Bingo charts were such a hit that we started using them for our vocabulary words and for Greek and Latin roots too!  We are excited to tell you all about how it works!


Now, we all know why BINGO cards work.  Let’s face it, middle school kids love prizes.  Some of our favorites to use in class are candy, stickers, and unique pens and pencils! 

We’ve found that on Amazon, you can order packs of stickers that don’t cost too much.  We order the kind that can be put on water bottles or phones or laptops.  Kids love them! We put up a pocket chart to display these stickers, and some kids would rather have one of these than candy.  

How to Use The Reading Bingo Cards

Here is how the Bingo cards work.  Each student is given a card.  The cards have statements that require students to find certain sections, characters, connections, or literary devices in their reading.  For example, one square may say, “Find a section of the novel that has a flashback.”  So, as students are reading, if they notice a flashback, they go to that bingo square for flashback and record the page number and the first few words of the flashback.  

If that section of the book is being discussed in class or in a small group for book clubs, the student can bring up the flashback and the group or the class can discuss what the flashback means and why it was important.  When a student has filled in five squares in a row, they of course have BINGO, and they receive a prize!  That keeps them motivated and engaged.  

Now We Add Vocabulary Bingo Cards!

Students loved the novel bingo cards so much, we decided to try BINGO cards with our vocabulary words.  The vocabulary Bingo card can be used with any vocabulary word list.  Each block on the card has two letters of the alphabet.  The first box has letters a and b, the second block has letters c and d, and so on.  All of the letters are repeated on the squares once.  Students fill in words that they see in their independent reading. They also record words they hear a teacher say or words they correctly use in their speaking or writing.  They must write the words in the box that has the letter that the vocabulary word begins with.  So if one of their words is disdain, they will write that word in the box with the letters c or d.    To document, students must do the following.

  • For a word that they see in a book, they must record the page number and title of the book.
  • For a word that they hear a teacher say, they must get the signature of that teacher on the square that has that particular word.  
  • Also, the student should write the sentence in which the word was used.   For this, students will need to use the back of the card for the sentence documentation.  

And, like with the book club bingo cards, when students get five in a row, they earn a prize!  We also do one bonus point on a vocabulary test along the way. They show us the card and we initial and add the point on the next test. 

We would like to give you these vocabulary bingo cards free of chargeClick here for the free cards in our TPT store!  

The Vocabulary Curriculum We Use

The two main things we incorporate into our vocabulary curriculum are repetition and mnemonic devices. 

Way back in 2006, we created a bell ringer called Daily Dose.  Since then, we have changed, updated, and improved it. What makes this resource  so successful is that it contains a word of the day that is accompanied by a funny mnemonic story.   This is what ensures that kids remember the word.  We swear by our silly mnemonic stories that accompany our vocabulary words! We have both had students whom we taught 20 years ago tell us that they still remember words and the silly story that goes with them.  “Mrs. Temple, I remember that word smug and how that man was so caught up on himself and smug that he put his face on all of his mugs.”  

The other component to a successful vocabulary component is repetition. In our Daily Dose bell ringer, there are 90 words for the first ninety days of school. Then the remaining 90 days are spent reviewing the 90 we’ve already learned.  There is no sense in piling on 20 vocabulary words a week for students to memorize for a test and then forget.  If your students can walk away from your class at the end of the year truly owning 30-40 new vocabulary words, that is astounding.  

Each and every Daily Dose bell ringer provides a word, a mnemonic, the word in context, along with editing questions and a standards based question.  

Recently, we created a new 8th grade vocabulary words of the week resource, and unlike Daily Dose, it is not a bell ringer.  But it still has the silly mnemonic stories and repetition.  

We have recently started using the Bingo card game with these vocabulary programs.  Our students enjoy this added  component! 

Below you will find the links to these vocabulary resources in our TPT store. If you don’t already have a vocabulary program that you like, you can try out one of ours! 

6th Grade Daily Dose – Click on the Preview button for a sample!

7th Grade Daily Dose – Click the Preview button for the sample!

8th Grade Daily Dose – Click the green Preview button for the sample!

8th Grade Vocabulary Word of the Week

10 Best Middle School ELA Halloween Lessons

Listen to hear our favorite middle school ELA Halloween stories and activities that we’ve tried over the years.  You’ll walk away with so many ideas, it will be hard for you to choose which one to try in your own ELA classroom this Halloween!  All printables mentoned in today’s show can be found on our blog at https://elacoreplans.com/middle-school-ela-halloween-lesson-our-collection/


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9 Narrative Writing Exercise on Suspense

This episode will provide you with a quick and super fun narrative writing lesson that can be completed in one class period! The lesson focuses on creating suspense. It would be perfect for a spooky October day, but can be used any time of year.  Be sure and find all of our shownotes and free printables and links on our blog at  https://elacoreplans.com/how-to-create-suspense-writing-lesson/



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How to Create Suspense Writing Lesson

Suspense is one of those literary elements we all want to know how to use, especially when we are telling or writing a good story and want others to pay attention.  This SHORT narrative writing exercise will teach students how to create suspense, and it is guaranteed to be one of your favorite lessons of the year!  

You’ll want to start by talking to your students about what suspense is and how authors create it.  You can have a discussion about stories or books they’ve read that made them sit on the edge of their seats with anticipation.  You can also talk about movies that foster suspenseful engagement. 

 I usually complete this lesson in the first nine weeks right after we’ve read suspenseful stories like “Lamb to the Slaughter,” “The Tell-Tale heart”  “The Monkey’s Paw,” or my favorite, “Duffy’s Jacket”.  

We make an anchor chart titled How to Create Suspense, listing all of the ways that authors of these stories create suspense.  We also discuss literary elements like dramatic irony, unreliable narrators, and foreshadowing.  We talk about how authors use pacing techniques to slow down their stories in the right places in order to capture their readers with just the right amount of tension.  Once we’ve learned all of the literary devices and techniques that create suspense, it’s time to use this quick narrative writing exercise, allowing students to create their own tiny stories full of suspense!  This would be perfect for October or close to Halloween, but truly, it is a lesson that can be used any time of the year. 

 I found this quick narrative writing  lesson years ago online, and it is one that I’ve always held on to just because the kids LOVE it.  It truly teaches them how to use pacing to create suspense.  I have even found that it helps me when telling stories, as the exercise has taught me how to hold attention at the right places.  Here’s how it works. 

How to Create Suspense Narrative Writing Exercise Directions

  • Have your students take out a sheet of paper or open a Google Doc if you want them to type. 
  • Explain to students that  it is important that they must follow your prompts and not get ahead of you.  Tell them that they will be writing one sentence at a time to create a “tiny suspenseful story” and that you will guide them in what they will write by telling them what to do each step of the way.   
  • Have students begin by writing the following line.   He thought he heard something.  Tell them they can choose whether to use a girl or a boy as the character, so instead of saying He, they could write She.  You could also allow them to write it in the first person point of view and use I thought I heard something.  
  • Now, lead your students to add more sentences by providing the following prompts.  Provide time for students to write their sentence before moving to the next.  1.  What did it sound like?  2.  What was your character thinking?  3.  What did your character smell that was out of the ordinary?  4.  What memory did this scent bring up in your character’s mind?  5. Now, connect this memory to the present moment for your character.  6.  Have your character notice something different or not quite right.  Maybe he/she sees something strange or notices something he/she didn’t notice before.  7.  Have a question go through your character’s mind.  8.  What does your character want to do right now?  9.  Have your character take some sort of action.  10.  Put an obstacle in the way, something that keeps the character from doing what he/she wanted to do.  11.  Have your character either return to the memory he/she had for courage or think of something else that gives him/her courage.  12.  Have your character move closer to the sound or smell.  13.  Let your character discover what it really was.  Maybe it was nothing, or maybe it was something!
  • You can print a copy of the sentence prompts by clicking here.

After students are done writing, they will most likely be eager to read their stories to the class. Allow time for this and celebrate all of the different ways that they created suspense.  To debrief, discuss how the pacing was used to create tension and how they can use this strategy in future narratives.

We also combined this lesson with our favorite Thanksgiving writing activity, write about Thanksgiving from the turkey’s point of view.  If you want a way to use this writing exercise on suspense in a humorous way around the holidays, this Thanksgiving version is for you!  You can download the FREE resource from our TpT store by clicking here.

Why Short Narrative Writing Exercises Make Sense for Middle School ELA

One reason these narrative writing exercises are so beneficial to us is because they are short.  This lesson on suspense can be completed in one class period.  As middle school ELA teachers, we have so much to cover in one year.  Our students also have short attention spans, and middle schoolers feel accomplished when they can complete an assignment in class, without having to finish on their own. 

For us, short narrative writing lessons are essential to teach the narrative writing standards.  We teach in SC, and our students have to write a text dependent analysis essay on the end of the year on our state standardized test.  The very real pressure of preparing students for that type of writing assignment can be stressful.  Responding to a TDA is a FEAT for middle schoolers, but teaching students to analyze, explain, and provide evidence for their analysis truly is important because this is the type of writing they will be expected to do throughout high school and college.   The problem is that it takes all year to effectively prepare our students to be proficient analyzers alone, not to mention proficient writers.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough time to spend on writing narratives too.  That’s why we sprinkle in short narrative writing assignments like the one discussed in this blog. 

If you teach in a state that requires students to write a text dependent analysis essay, and you need some help in how to teach them in an effective, process approached way that works, we have a complete course on effectively teaching students how to write a text dependent analysis, including a free mini course providing the first steps of teaching students the difference between summary and analysis.   Our free course has presentations, handouts, and lessons that you can use ASAP in your classroom.  If you like what’s in the free course, ask your administration about purchasing our complete course on teaching students to write TDA essays.  You’ll have everything you need to effectively teach every step of the process! 

Middle School ELA Halloween Lesson~ Our Collection

If you are looking for a fun Middle School ELA Halloween lesson, we are here to share our best and most memorable ones from over the years. We’ve been teaching for quite some time, to say the least, so we have collected several fun and engaging middle school ELA Halloween lessons.  In fact, we have so many fun ones to choose from that now is is hard to figure out the one that we want to use in our classrooms each Halloween season.

Of course, any good scary story is perfect for a memorable middle school ELA  Halloween lesson. Dim your classroom lights, play some spooky organ music while your students are entering the room, start your fog machine.  Okay, maybe not a fog machine, but you could put up a picture of fog on your screen!   Then, read one of the following stories.  We’re going to sprinkle in some of the spooktacular fun we’ve had while reading these favorites of ours!  It’s worth the read!

Perfect Stories for a Middle School ELA Halloween Lesson

  • “The Highwayman” ~Actually, this isn’t a story, but it’s a narrative poem that tells a ghost story. It makes the perfect middle school ELA Halloween lesson because it’s short and captivating.  After reading it, discuss with your students how the poetic elements such as repetition and rhythm help contribute to the spooky mood of the poem.  I always have one or two kids that have good rhythm keep the beat on their desks while I read it aloud. Afterwards, you can have your students write their own story or poem about Bess and the Highwayman and how they continue to haunt to this day.  If you’d like some other standards-based activities for this poem, we have a “Highwayman” Teaching unit in our TpT store. 
  • “Three Skeleton Key” by George G. Toudouze is not that scary, but it is truly a disturbing short story, for lack of a better word. It’s not too disturbing for middle schoolers though.  Our middle schoolers love it! It’s about three men who find themselves trapped in a lighthouse, and that lighthouse ends up being attacked by rats. Thousands of starving rats are literally trying to get into the lighthouse and eat the men alive. I’ll never forget one year we were reading this story, and Tammy (my colleague) and I found remote controlled rats.  Right in the middle of the story, we electronically ran those suckers out into the middle of our class. For a split second, our students were stunned and afraid, but then they saw that they were mechanical, and we all laughed and laughed.   It brought some fun, which is important to incorporate in your ELA class from time to time. This story used to be in our Holt textbook, but you could probably find it online.  You can also find this story on Actively learn, a free website that provides stories that you could send to your students.  We also have a teaching unit for “Three Skeleton Key” in our TpT store.
  • “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” ~This is a teleplay written for The Twilight Zone.   It’s about a neighborhood where all sorts of strange things start happening after a flash shoots across the sky. First, their power goes out; then the phone lines stop working. Then, other strange things start to occur.  One little boy who reads comic books tells the neighbors that he read about aliens, disguised as humans, who visited a town and caused problems.  This causes the neighbors to be suspicious of one another, and the conflict arises because the neighbors start to blame one another.    One year before I read the story, I staged several spooky happenings to occur in my classroom. I arranged for Tammy to call my room three or four times and just hang up. This occurred before we read the story. My phone would ring. I would answer it saying, ” Hello, hello?”  And I’d tell my class,  “Well, I don’t know what’s going on. Someone must be messing with me.”   I also set an alarm to go off by itself, and I said, “I don’t know what  is happening in this classroom today.  Something strange is going on.” At this point, we would start reading the play.  So, I already had their imaginations primed before we even started.  Then, in the middle of reading it,  I would stop and look at my kids as seriously as I could and I would say, “I’m here to tell you that I’m not really your teacher. I’m an alien. If you go to that door, you’ll find it locked.” Now, mind you,  these were seventh graders, so they could handle this little prank.  For a few seconds, the look in their eyes would tell me that they actually believed that I was an alien, and then we would all crack up laughing and go on with our lives.  Check out our TpT unit for “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” if you need more standards-based activities.
  • “Sorry, Wrong Number” and “The Hitchhiker,” both by Lucille Fletcher are also great plays that would serve as perfect spooky middle school ELA Halloween lessons!
  • “Duffy’s Jacket” by Bruce Coville is one of the BEST stories to use around Halloween. It’s the perfect length to read in one class period, and it’s one of the most suspenseful short stories for this age group. It’s about these three kids who go on a camping trip with their moms.  They end up staying in an old hunting lodge, and the moms leave the kids in the lodge one night while they go  go to town. While the kids are there alone, something comes after them.  It first shows up scratching at the door.  When we read this story, we always use sound effects of the scratch scratch scratch part. There’s also one part of the story where a door falls down, and we bang our hands on the table at that point just to watch our students jump.  At that point, they are all so into the story, they make easy targets.  The ending of this story is almost like a “gotcha” kind of thing,  so it builds tension and then has a comical ending.  Kids love it.  We have a complete teaching unit for this story too!
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart”~ When I read this story, I always find a sound effect of a heart beating and press play at the times when the narrator hears the old man’s beating heart.

Whatever Halloween story that you choose, see if you can do something a little fun along with it.  I promise you, not only will your students have fun, but you will too. Teaching ELA can be so stressful at times; it’s important to have fun along with your students.  It really will help you love your job even more!   Just make sure it’s nothing too scary!

In addition to these stories, we also have plenty of fun and memorable writing activities that would be perfect for a middle school ELA Halloween lesson!  At some point in our career, we’ve completed all of these.  They’re all so great that it makes it hard to choose which one to do this Halloween! Our list is below, and we will start with a lighthearted one, one that isn’t spooky at all but involves candy! 

Perfect Writing Activities for Halloween

  • Pop Rocks Poetry ~You’ll want to teach a lesson on imagery first and provide plenty of great examples of imagery from literature.  Then, provide each student with a small bag of Pop Rocks.  Recently, we’ve found Pop Rocks at the Dollar Tree, but they are now a different brand (Hawaiian Punch).  The original ones are at Dollar General in our area, and they may be easy to find around Halloween.   Give students a “Pop Rocks Poetry” notetaking handout for them to write their descriptions on.   First, all together as a class, have students first shake the bag of Pop Rocks and listen to the sound that makes.  Have them record words that describe that sound on their hand-out.  Next, students should open the bag and smell them, and then record words that describe the smell.  Encourage them to write similes and metaphors.  After this, tell your students to put a few of the rocks in their hands and study them.  Ask students to write what they look like and feel like, providing as much detail and figurative language as possible.  Finally, have all students put a handful in their mouth all together.  Instruct them to open their mouths and be very still and quiet so that the class can listen to what it sounds like.  It’s pretty loud when everyone does this at the same time.   Record words to describe this sound on the page.  Finally, have them describe the taste.  Once students have all of these descriptions, instruct them to write a Pop Rocks poem, pulling in the words, descriptions, similes, and metaphors that they recorded. Our free packet contains a sample poem too!
  • Another fun poetry lesson is Halloween lunes.  Lunes are short poems that are silly. The first line has three words, the second line has five words, and the third line has three words.  One Halloween, we had our students write body part lunes.  We bought those body part gummies, the ones that have individually wrapped feet, eyeballs, ears, brains, and hands.  We gave each student one of these and then told them they had to write a lune about it.  They had a ton of fun, and loved reading them out loud!
  • Candy corn haiku are fun too!  Simply review the rules for writing haiku.  Give your students some candy corn, and have them write a few of those poems to share with their classmates. Then, let them enjoy eating the candy corn.
  • Body Beast Poetry~ Body beast as in lice, mites, bed bugs, leeches, etc.  Gross. Huh?  We know it, but our middle schoolers loved it.  This activity incorporates some research.  Students choose one body beast to research, make a list of facts, and then they have to weave at least three facts into a poem that they write about their beast.

We are so happy to have you here reading our blog!  We want to say thank you by providing you with this FREE resource that will give you all of the printables that you need for lunes, Pop Rock poetry, body beast poetry, candy corn haiku, and even a few others.  We’d love for you to follow us on TpT, Instagram, Facebook, and of course our Podcast, which is titled Two Middle School ELA Teachers.  

One more thing…(We’ve been teaching so long, we just have soooo many things to share!)  Another way that you can spend Halloween class time is with an episode of The Twilight Zone. In fact, “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”  mentioned earlier is a Twilight Zone episode.   That show was popular when we were kids, but the episodes are now on Netflix.  We’ve created a wealth of resources to accompany four different episodes, and these are all seriously standards based… Students will write objective summaries, determine themes, and more.  You can check out our Twilight Zone bundle in our TpT store if you’d like by clicking here.  Oh, and one other resource we have that would make the perfect middle school ELA Halloween lesson is our Dead Verbs funeral activity!  This is a great lesson to teach students the importance of word choice! 

I think that’s about it.  It looks like Halloween Day is on a school day for most this year!  We hope you have a spooktacular time in your own ELA class this year for Halloween!