Number one for English language teachers

Skills: Glorious gap-fills

Level: Starter/beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Teaching notes

There seem to be an awful lot of gap-fill exercises in course books nowadays. And sometimes they can be rather dreary for students and teacher alike. Well, you could try some of these ideas.

There seem to be an awful lot of gap-fill exercises in course books nowadays. And sometimes they can be rather dreary for students and teacher alike. Except for saying "Do exercise two" and then checking it when they finish, what on earth can you do with them? Well, you could do this…

  1. 100 metres sprint

    With books closed, announce that students have exactly one minute to do the whole task. Say 'go' and then stop after 60 seconds – when students have to close their books. Gather student reactions to doing it quickly then ask them to look through more carefully, without a time limit, and see if they want to change any of their original answers. Only then, go through the answers together.
  2. Books shut task

    Do the task with books closed and you reading the text aloud. Whenever there is a gap, make a beep noise instead and ask students to write down a word for each blank. At the end let them look at the text and see if they think their first answers were good, before you go through answers together.
  3. Partial answers

    When checking gap-fills that require students to choose between a number of possible words, at first only give partial answers. For example, tell them only how many of each choice there are e.g. There are 3 answers with “going to”. This will make students re-check their answers to see if theirs fit this information – and it may cause them to rethink some choices.
  4. Teacher student

    Instead of getting students to do it, do the task yourself on the board. Ask students to check if you get all the answers right. Make two or three errors and see if people spot them. Get students to teach you how to correct your sentences.
  5. Mark the teacher!

    Similarly, you could do the task on paper before class and hand out copies in class for students to mark.
  6. Student teacher

    At the end of a task ask a student to come to the front and be the teacher to check the task. Hand the student the answers and let them go through the class’s answers. Encourage them to ask people for reasons.
  7. Dictated answers

    Give students a chance to read through the gapped text then tell them that you’ll dictate all the answers to them – but in the wrong order. Students have to quickly find the right space for the words you read out.
  8. Unreliable information

    After they’ve finished a task pretend to be giving answers as normal, but without warning, tell them some right and some wrong answers. If a student challenges or questions you, argue fiercely for your answer. Give just enough encouragement to your critic to keep them challenging. Finally give in – and congratulate them (and change your own answer)! Once students have the idea that you may not be an entirely reliable informant they will be more motivated to listen much more carefully – and think rather than just accepting your answers.


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Readers' comments (3)

  • Hi Rach,

    Well spotted thank you! We've corrected the text.

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  • "ather student reactions" should read: "Gather student reactions"

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  • I liked Unreliable Information and Books shut task.I'm going to try them both this week. I sometimes found gap filling exercises boring my students and I taking the same course time and time again. They'll be thrilled to try something new.

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