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suggestions for teachers and students
cloze texts

about cloze texts
"Barry Greenstein" (cloze)


I've tried to write these suggestions in the same sort of English I've used in writing the stories and the other materials on flesl.net. I've done this in the hope of making them useful, not just to native-speaking teachers but also to students of all kinds and to non-native speaking teachers. (fl, 05.07.07)

for teacher-directed classrooms

Of course, cloze texts can be done as 'individual work', in class or as homework. Students can be given the key for correction, or the exercise can be corrected by the teacher.

It is probably be more useful, however, to use the texts as 'group work.' There should be three or four students in each group. If possible, the exercise should be done without dictionaries. This will encourage discussion and thought. If dictionaries are used, then only one should be given to each group. If all the students have a dictionary, then there is a danger that conversation will soon come to an end.

The time spent on the exercise should probably be limited to twenty minutes — or half an hour at the most. Then a copy of the key can be given to each group. It is best if one student reads from the key while others listen; in this way, speaking and listening practice would continue; otherwise, there's a danger that conversation will stop while everyone struggles to see the key.

The group approach can be extended by limiting the original discussion to a short period, say ten minutes, and then having a 'messenger' from each group go to another group. The messengers will look at the answers of the group they're visiting, make criticisms, give suggestions. This step can be repeated until one of the groups is sure it has put the right word in all the blanks, but if this is done, it's a good idea to time each step carefully and limit the whole activity to thirty-five or forty minutes.

When the students have finished working on the text, it might be a good idea to follow up with a classroom discussion of the meaning of the thirty-eight 'removed' words and also, perhaps, of the single-word and the multi-word items in the supplementary vocabulary list. The best way to do this would be to ask for questions; a teacher-centered discussion is likely to be a waste of time. Even the most enthusiastic students won't pay attention for long to a teacher explaining the meaning of individual words.

Rather than spending time on a discussion of the words, it might be best to integrate some of the vocabulary in a communicative vocabulary-learning activity of one sort or another — or simply to announce that there will be a test on the words in the text in a few days.

Of course it is always possible to follow up the exercise by giving students copies of the key and asking them to reread it at home as a normal text. Later they can be asked to write a brief in-class summary of the text without looking at the text itself or using notes. In addition, or as an alternative, at-home work on the text could be followed up by discussion activities or drama activities.

independent students and study groups

Independent students can benefit as much from the cloze texts as students who work on them individually in the classroom. Because a key is available — and because there is just one correct 'answer' for each blank — there is no need for the text to be corrected by a teacher.

And cloze texts should help independent students retain newly-learned words. The experience of repeatedly going over the long list of words and looking them up in a dictionary provides an opportunity to actually work with new words — an experience they may usually be deprived of as a result of working alone.

Of course, study groups can use the basic group approach described above, but because there is no supervising teacher it's especially important for the members of the group to keep in mind the basic rules of group work: No one should dominate. No one should be left out. Everyone should help everyone else.