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Cloze (Nation, 1989)

Text with gaps for students to complete.


  • To practise general language knowledge, or specific language features


  • Information distribution – shared
  • Student arrangement – individual
  • Student focus – meaning and accuracy
  • Language modes – reading/writing (can be varied to use listening/speaking)
  • Challenge – to work out the missing words



Delete words selectively based on vocabulary or grammar that is your focus, for example, to give practice with words associated with a particular topic. Alternatively, delete words at a particular interval (for example, every 6th word) to get random deletions.

Students read the text and write in the missing words, predicting from the context.

Mark the answers accepting any that make sense and discussing reasons for choosing words.

Teacher considerations

The more words you delete from a text, the more difficult it is to complete.

Select a text at the right level for your students.

Tell students to read the whole text through before writing in any words, so that they get an idea of what it is about.

You may need to teach students how to work out the missing words from the immediate context (looking at the sentence and using grammar clues) and from the wider context (what makes sense).


  • To make it easier
    • put a line for each letter in the word
    • give the first letter of the word
    • provide a list of words to choose from (more than needed, to provide some challenge).
  • To make it harder - Don’t leave a gap where there is a word missing.
  • Change the student arrangement – put students in pairs or groups to discuss their answers and the reasons for them.
  • As a combining arrangement – “Complete the passage” – students work in pairs. (Nation, 1989, p. 50) One has the cloze passage with words missing, the other has the list of words. They do not look at each other’s papers. The one with the passage reads it out and asks the other for words to fill the gaps.
  • Progressive cloze/completion dictation – Make several versions of the text, with more words missing each time. Students either complete the text as a regular cloze (reading) or the teacher reads the text and students write the words they hear (listening). After correction, the activity is repeated with the same text with more words missing. Continue repeating with more and more missing words. This can be used with a single sentence at lower levels, or when introducing a new sentence structure, as it gives lots of repetition, but the students gradually have to hold more and more of it in their heads. (Nation, 1989 p. 24)
  • Oral cloze – List ten or more words from a story or other text on the board in a different order to how they appear in the story. Read the story, stopping when you come to one of the words on the board. The students must work out which word is missing. Say the correct word to confirm it. Make this harder by not listing the words that are missing. (Nation, 1989 p. 26)
  • “Make your own” song cloze – Ask students to transcribe the words of a song by listening to it and then to delete words from their transcription to make a cloze exercise for other students.


Cloze activities raise awareness of the predicting aspect of reading and demonstrate that you don’t have to know every word in a text to understand it.

Discussing how they worked out what word to put in can lead to teaching about guessing from context, using the immediate context of the sentence as well as the overall context.

Evaluation of the task

Were the students able to provide sensible answers to the cloze?

Could they give reasons for their choices?


  • Nation, I. S. P. (1989). Language Teaching Techniques. English Language Institute Occasional Publication No. 2 (pp. 24, 26, 50, 67).

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