Five Tips for Using Reading Bingo in Middle School

For librarians and elementary schools, Reading Bingo isn’t a new idea. I’ve seen countless printable Reading Bingo cards online, both free and for sale. When I was at the elementary level, my students went bananas for Reading Bingo! By the end of the school year, I had collected hundreds of Bingo cards (I kept them in a binder) and given out all kinds of different prizes. In elementary, the hardest part about a Reading Bingo program is keeping up with the students’ enthusiasm for it!


Middle school students, however, are a tougher crowd. It seems that many middle schoolers either really love or really hate reading. For those students who haven’t decided how they feel about reading, the middle years are crucial to creating either lifelong readers or non-readers who dismiss reading as only a school activity. If they already hate reading, middle school may be their last opportunity to turn those thoughts around.

It is vital that we give our middle school non-readers the gentle shove they need to land them into the group that loves reading.

So how do we adapt Reading Bingo into something that is popular with middle schoolers? Five ideas that may help…

Middle School Reading Bingo First Card Freebie

This freebie is great if you are not sure about Reading Bingo in your school. If you just want to give it a try, click here to see it in my Free Resource Library. If you need the password for the Free Resource Library, click here to subscribe (also free).

Looking for more? The full version is at the bottom of this post.

1. Make Middle School Reading Bingo categories both general and specific.

General categories enable students to choose just about any book for the square. Examples include: A book someone recommended to you or an audiobook. These could be virtually any title. Specific categories, such as A book with a train or ship on the cover, help keep the game interesting, like a scavenger hunt for books.

2. Don’t require students to read all the squares, or blackout, the card.

As much as I’d like to see students read 50 books in a school year, I know that this is unlikely for many of them. Far too many middle schoolers find that reading just one book is a huge mountain to climb. My cards have only 16 squares. If students read one row on their card, they have 10 groups of 4 books to choose from (4 across, 4 down, 2 diagonals). Allowing them to read the four corners adds an 11th option.

3. Allow a class to earn a class party by working together to complete one or two cards.

Students could read with a partner or in a book group. Encourage book clubs by allowing students to meet in the library during lunch or before and after school. Bonus points if you participate in the student book clubs!

4. Help students stay honest by offering win-win prizes.

Small prizes like pencils and bookmarks often don’t motivate middle schoolers. Awesome prizes (field trips) will motivate some to lie about or rush through their reading just to get the prize.

The best prizes for middle schoolers are prizes that help reactivate the intrinsic pleasure of reading. These prizes might include time out of class to read in the library or using Scholastic points or bookfair proceeds to allow students to choose free or discounted books.

Arrange days to take students who want to read outside when the weather is nice. Schedule an author Skype with cookies and hot chocolate. Take a small group to the public library each month. Plan “Read in your pajamas” (or hats or crazy socks) days for students who have completed a Bingo row that month. All of these are either free or very cheap, and they reinforce the idea that reading is a pleasurable activity, not just something you have to do for school.

I call these win-win prizes because even if the student completely fakes his or her reading, the prize is more chances to read. Few students would fake-read in order to earn more time to fake-read.

5. Please, please make Middle School Reading Bingo optional.

I get so sad seeing how many “reading incentive” programs are required for a grade. We want students to enjoy reading and to choose to do it. When it comes to reading for pleasure, middle school is make-it-or-break-it time for some of these kids. We need to encourage them to read for pleasure, which is the primary aim of any reading incentive program. Requiring Reading Bingo or any other incentive program for a grade is counter-productive.


I’ve included a freebie Reading Bingo card (linked above). Give it a try, and if you and your students like it, you can download my other Bingo cards and sets from Teachers Pay Teachers (linked below). Best of all, unlike most of the online Reading Bingo cards that are usually for elementary students, I created all of my cards specifically for middle schoolers!

Middle School Reading Bingo Full Set 

If you are ready to start Reading Bingo with your students, or if you want an editable version that also includes Google Slides Bingo cards, this is the one for you! Click here to see it in my TPT store and here to see it in my MrsReaderPants store.

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