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Filling the gaps

All teachers at some time make use of gap-fill activities. There are very good reasons for doing so, whether the focus is on careful listening with a transcript, grammatical awareness, vocabulary retrieval or general comprehension. I particularly liked them for scaffolding listening with classes, combining comprehension with phonics and grammar. A gap-fill really gets students listening intensively and supports the process of listening. If you are keen on the idea of Listening as Modelling (as described in our listening book) you may prefer this type of task to general comprehension exercises which can end up promoting guesswork.

You can use gap-full in all kinds of ways and with different aims in mind. As a little exercise I thought I’d make a list if all the types of gap-fill I could think of.  These are all with LISTENING in mind, more than reading. These could help you focus on the precise aim of the gap-fill or just provide you with some variations to make it more interesting for pupils. Don’t forget that you can use chunks of language for gaps instead of single words. If you are a “chunking” sort of teacher keen on sentence builder frames, this makes sense. Maybe you can come up with other examples!

Here we go.

  • Standard gap-fill with individual words, e.g. chosen randomly or every, say, eight words.
  • Gap-fill with chunks, not words (good for recycling chunks after doing work with a sentence builder).
  • Gap-fill with no gaps provided (thanks to Dylan ViƱales). This is tricky and perhaps not recommended for all classes!
  • Gap-fill with options at the bottom or top.
  • Multi-choice gaps, e.g. with options in brackets after the gap or at the bottom of the page, with gaps numbered.
  • Gap-fill with two options in brackets or one above the other.
  • Correct the faulty transcript (not strictly gap-fill, but you have to remove one word or chunk and replace with another.
  • Gap-fill with missing letters, e.g. vowels or consonants.
  • Gaps with number of letters indicated with dashes or hyphens.
  • Gap-fill with missing syllables. 
  • Gap-fill with missing inflections (e.g. verb endings or adjective agreements).
  • Gap-fill with first letter given.
  • Gap with last letter given
  • Gap-fill with first syllable given. (The first syllable is a good clue to a word or chunk.)
  • Verb gaps (or parts of verbs such as auxiliaries and past participles).
  • Adjective gaps.
  • Article gaps (indefinite, definite and partitive).
  • Gap followed by a synonym in brackets (to enrich vocabulary skill).
  • Gap followed by antonym in brackets.
  • Gap followed by rhyming word after in brackets.
  • Gaps with varied line length or same line length (the former gives more of a clue).
  • Random partial word gaps (e.g. lay narrow strips if paper across original text before photocopying it - tell the class there was a problem with the photocopier.
  • Disappearing text gaps (two or three versions done in quick succession or over more than one lesson), each one with more gaps, so the task becomes progressively harder for students.
  • A really tough one for advanced students: leave gaps and students must insert a synonym of the word you read


As a final tip, when preparing Y11 classes for GCSE listening our I designed a booklet of gap-fill listening exercises, using chosen text book transcripts as the source. We kept this booklet in class and used it once a week, as well as past papers, in the final few weeks before the exam.

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