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Paired listening gap-fill

Here's a simple brief, low preparation pair work task with a focus on listening. Partner A is given a gapped text at the right level (about their current level of competence with little or no new vocabulary). There should not be many gaps, say about one missing word every sentence or two. Partner B has a list of words which can fill the gaps, but the words are not listed in the same sequence the gaps will be heard. You could add distractor words to the list (words will will not be used). See the examples below.

Partner A reads aloud at a slowish pace the text, pausing when there is a gap. Partner B then chooses a word from their list which could plausibly fill the gap. Partner A then re-reads the sentence to include the new word supplied by Partner B. Then partner A reads on to the next gap, and so on. If the text is relatively short, I'd suggest that when Partner A re-reads, they go back to the start of the text. In this way Partner B gets to hear the input several times, and partner A gets several opportunities to read aloud. You may need to insist on this point to avoid students rushing.

When the text is finished and all the gaps filled, the pair can discuss the answers briefly together. Or the teacher can display a correct version on the board. The whole task may take no more than five minutes, so you could supply a couple more examples.

The partners can then swap roles.

So this is effectively a simple oral/aural gap-fill task with options which could be used as a starter, filler or plenary. Gaps could be chosen on the basis of key vocabulary content words (focus on lexical retrieval) or, say, grammatical features such as verb tense (focus on grammatical parsing). Both lexical retrieval and parsing are important elements in the listening process. If gaps are placed near or at the end of sentences, students can also bring their predictive skills into play, anticipating what word is likely to come next.

So here's a simple example with a focus on vocabulary retrieval:

Partner A's text

Pendant mes vacances l'année dernière à Barcelone j'ai fait beaucoup de _______. Par exemple, je me suis baigné dans la piscine, j'ai fait les magasins et j'ai visité des ________ avec mes parents. Un jour il y avait un grand marché dans la ville et j'ai acheté un T-shirt et des sandales pour la _______. Il a fait beau presque tous les jours, sauf un jour jour où il y a eu beaucoup de _______. Ce jour-là on n'a pas pu aller sur la plage. Pour moi le meilleur moment était quand on a visité le parc aquatique. Je suis allé au moins vingt fois sur le ________. L'année prochaine je voudrais bien retourner en _______, parce que les gens sont sympa et il y a du soleil tous les jours.

Partner B's word list

soleil (distractor)
hotel (distractor)
France (distractor)

And here's one with a focus on grammatical awareness, in this instance tense usage:

Partner A's text

Quand j'étais toute petite j'allais à l'école primaire près de chez moi. Je ______ beaucoup avec mes camarades de classe, par exemple nous jouions à cache-cache dans la cour. J'adorais mes maîtresses et je ne voulais pas vraiment _____ au collège. Maintenant je vais au collège et je ______ beaucoup. Je fais beaucoup de matières différentes et en plus il y les devoirs à ______ tous les soirs. C'est pénible. L'année prochaine je ______ en seconde au lycée. Ce sera un peu différent, je crois. Je vais me concentrer un peu plus sur les maths et les sciences.

Partner B's word list

concentre (distractor)
fait (distractor)
passais (distractor)
travaillais (distractor)
joue (distractor)

You could of course work this type of task into a lesson sequence. You take one of the completed texts after the exercise, and use it as the basis for further exercises to provide more repetitions. For example, you could the "disappearing text" technique, gradually removing more and more words from the text as students attempt to recreate it orally. Texts could also be the basis for paired dictation or teacher-led "delayed dictation" (see my previous blog).

The above examples suit low intermediate level students, but the technique could be used at any level. With beginners and low intermediates you'd want to be confident in the reading aloud abilities of the class.


  1. Hi,
    Sorry, I couldn't find any way to contact you. Anyways, I wanted to introduce which is a website used by language teachers for creating gap-fill exercises like you advocate in this article. You can then see how well the students performed by either having them login or just recording anonymous answers. You can also embed sound files directly into the website. There are also other quiz types available like drag & drop, dropdowns, etc.

  2. Happy to check it out, though it’s not very useful for the specific exercise above.


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