Archive | March, 2011

Online Teaching Tool: Fakebook(s)

31 Mar

Anna Pires of IH Braga gave a brilliant seminar at the recent IH Portugal training day called “If you can’t beat them, join them!” where she looked at the ways that our learners interact with technology in their daily lives and how we as teachers can bring that into our lessons more.  Among the many things she touched on in the session was, of course, facebook!

One idea that I really liked was giving students a handout with a blank status update field and getting them to update their status onto the handout, before sticking it to the wall.  The learners can then wander round the room, read each other’s updates and comment on them – much as they would do if they were online.  This is a really nice way of finding out what kind of place all your learners are in as they enter the classroom, as well as connecting the classroom to the real world.

Anna also demonstrated an activity where learners can create facebook style pages for historical figures – a nice way of blending different skills development into an information transfer task, which also has myriad opportunities for language development that could be built into a lesson based around the idea.  It doesn’t have to be historical figures of course, fictional characters could be used as well.  Anna cited Lisa Dubernard’s post “Facebookin’ in the ActivClassroom?“, where Lisa has developed ideas from a post on Richard Byrne’s blog:  Historical Facebook – Facebook for Dead People.

Into this mix also comes “Fakebook” – from – which is an online facebook style profile generator.  It has the advantage of automatically selecting profile pictures from the internet, though names need to be spelt correctly, which cuts down on the amount of time learners spend browsing through the google image search.  It is therefore relatively easy for learners to then imagine the conversation that went on between, say, John Terry and Steven Gerrard that took place on Fernando Torres’ wall after Torres moved from Liverpool to Chelsea.  (for those of you who have no idea why that might be important – this BBC news report gives some background.



My learners spent a happy half hour thinking about who might be friends with whom and why, and what they might all say to each other.  In retrospect, a certain amount of pre-computer room planning and preparation might be useful – thinking about what they know about their chosen famous victim and such like, in order to avoid the classic “wikipedia dump” tactic…

Definitely worth a go – and thanks to (yes it’s that man again…) Larry Ferlazzo for first posting on fakebook’s existence:

Larry also suggests using fakebook as a way of getting learners to produce synopses of novels & literature (an idea I would love to try!) and also as a way of documenting major historical events from the perspective of the participants (also something I’d like to try, but not likely to get much opportunity to!).



Help with Homework

29 Mar

“Teacher No!”  “Teacher, I have three tests this week!” Chances are, you’ve probably experienced the chorus of protest and dismay as you blithely announce the homework task of the day.  Or alternatively as you ask your learners to present the task you set last lesson, you find that half the class hand it in while quarter of the class hand in something approximating what you asked for and the remainder present a litany of excuses:  “I’ve done it, but I didn’t bring it.”  “I didn’t understand what to do.”  “I had no time.” Or possibly even, “I did my homework but I was kidnapped by aliens who took my homework to help with their intergalactic language comprehension project.”

Homework is a tricky area and I think if we’re all honest and think back to the days when we were in the learners’ shoes, we can perhaps identify with the way our learners feel when they get given yet something else that takes them away from their busy lives.

As a language teacher, I’m acutely aware that the homework I set is in fierce competition with a whole range of demands of my learners’ time.  There are of course the non-educational demands:  learners’ interests, from basketball to surfing, music to art, chilling out, socialising, facebooking, texting and gossiping all play vital roles in their lives, as indeed they do in ours.  Equally, learners who work have to find the time in the schedule when they aren’t juggling sales orders or invoices or preparing for the meeting on Thursday.  And those poor souls still in school have it even worse:  a vast range of subject teachers who all set their charges weekly homework tasks that must be completed sometimes on pain of failing the grade.

There are any number of reasons why learners might not do their homework – Alex Case lists 14 reasons in an article for  The trick of course is in finding ways to try and make sure they do it.


The biggest question is why bother setting homework in the first place?  Generally, I would expect most homework tasks to fall into three categories:  Consolidation  /  Development  /  Assessment.

  • Consolidation – you set the task because it helps learners get a better idea of something you did in class (or helps you figure out which learners don’t have a better idea).
  • Development – the task helps the learners to improve their knowledge or skills in some way.
  • Assessment – particularly used with writing tasks (I suspect), you set tasks that will in some way contribute to learner grades or reports.

The question then becomes – do the learners know why they’re doing the task?  Just as you might choose to communicate your lesson aims to the class via a lesson menu, why not do the same with homework tasks?  Generally, if learners understand why they’re doing something they are more motivated to do it.  Or if they choose not to do it, at least they will have made a more informed decision!  Either way, informing learners that the task they’re doing will help them understand better something they did in class, or that what they’re doing will be used in the next class, might help underline the need for them to do it.  Of course, it might also underline to them the pointlessness of any task that hasn’t been thought through!


Get learner input on the homework process.  Learners are often very aware of their strengths and weaknesses and talking to them or doing needs analysis with them might help you to tailor the homework tasks to them.  You could also get a better idea of what external time commitments they have and find out how much homework they can realistically cope with in any given week.  Working with learners schedules and negotiating homework quantities with them can help them realise that you are taking their needs into account and thereby make them more willing to take yours into account.  Learners are often informed when their tests are scheduled, in some cases their homework tasks too, and by giving you this information, you can help avoid overload during particularly busy periods, thus increasing the likelihood that your tasks will get done.

Integration – Routines & Consequences:

Integrate the homework process into your classes more effectively.  If learners know that you are always going to check the homework, they are more likely to do it.  If they see that your commitment to homework checking and marking wavers, theirs will too.  A routine check at the beginning of lessons, where whether the homework has been done is seen by the learners to be noted down may help here.

This leads onto the consequences of doing it and of not doing it.  Many teachers employ a carrot and stick approach where learners who do the homework consistently are rewarded and those who do not are punished in some way.  There are any number of ways in which you might implement such a system and in many respects these are probably best left to individual teachers in their different contexts to decide.  Your school might well have views on this, or already have such systems in place.  Reward systems I’ve seen used have ranged from star charts, computer room tokens, stamps and stickers, or the ever popular “homework pass”.  I’ve even heard of one teacher who took the best homework contributors out for pizza!  Punishments vary equally, though in schools I’ve worked in, homework is either treated as one aspect of misbehaviour in a wider discipline system, or is basically ignored until report card time when the student gets a “0” and the parent then comes storming in to find out what’s going on…  but more on this last aspect in a moment.

Activities, warmers or lead in tasks that borrow from homework tasks (but do not duplicate them) when used at the start of lessons can reinforce to learners the benefits of doing the homework as those who’ve completed the homework will perform better than those who did not.  For example the target items from a vocabulary homework exercise can be used as part of a revision game.


It might be worth finding out from your learners what approach they take to doing their homework.  What, for example, are their study habits?  Do they do it on the bus on the way to school?  Do they just copy from the one student who actually did it, just before the class starts?  Do they have an organised rota system in place with answers being emailed or texted to everyone else?  Or do they have a quiet place at home where they can sit and focus on the task in hand?

Getting this kind of information from your learners and having a discussion about what constitutes good study practice and how they can help themselves might be useful.  Suggesting, however abhorrent the idea may be, that they turn off their mobile phones while they study so as to avoid distraction could be useful.  Allocating a specific study time to their days for however long they need and organising a study area for them to work at might also help.  Many learners might already have something like this in place, others might not.  Opening up a discussion in the class would allow for the sharing of experiences and the working towards some form of “best practice”.


From a teacher’s perspective, getting the parents involved can be a tricky proposition.  Some parents are heavily involved in their child’s education and others feel that this is the teacher’s responsibility alone.  The general view amongst teachers, from what I’ve read, seems to be that parental involvement is a welcome thing – in moderation.  As far as homework is concerned at least, it should be possible to set up a framework for the parents to best support the way their children do their homework.  If you and your class have a working system in place, it can be worthwhile communicating that system to the parents so that they can contribute meaningfully to the process.  For example, giving learners a “homework planner” which they can stick into their folders or into the front page of their coursebook, gives them a place to write down the tasks (which you can then check for accuracy) and which the parents can then check for completion.

Bringing parents into the dialogue that you’ve opened up with the learners about quantity, quality and organisation of homework can help them understand what and why you use homework for and how they can best help – even if that help only extends to leaving their kids alone for an hour or so a week!  And it might help prevent the irate father showing up in the school reception to demand an explanation for the “zero” on that report card.

I hope this helps!

There is quite a lot to take on board here and quite a wide range of different things to try, some of which will work while others will not and some might not even be necessary.  The key, though is the dialogue between you and your learners as to what you all think will work best for your situation.  Try having that conversation, because if you do, the worst thing that will happen is that you’ll all understand each other a little better, even if you still don’t get much more homework handed in.  Best case scenario?  You’ll have a lot more marking to do!


Since writing this post, Rob Haines has written a guest post on Scott Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT blog – you can read the full post here: “H is for Homework“.  Rob talks about moving homework away from the default option and engaging learners in both the design and execution of homework tasks – and provides a list of handy tips for you to do this!  Rob also cites a post by Steve Darn on the BC Teaching English website looking at the whys, wherefores and hows of homework, with some nice suggestions for task ideas.

Tools for the 21st Century Teacher

28 Mar

Michael Zimmer’s “issuu” guide to technology for teachers:  You’ll have heard about many of the technologies that he mentions – but many you probably won’t have a clue about!  In an accessible, handy one page per technology format, Michael explains what the technology is (or does) and how you can use it.  Check out his issuu book here:

Tools for the 21st Century Teacher.

Acknowledgement:  I spotted this on Joyce Valenza and Kristen Swanson’s STHS LIBRARY GUIDES, which I never would have gone to if it hadn’t been for Larry Ferlazzo’s post “New Tools Guide“.

A Lesson on Linkers

24 Mar

This is a lesson that aims to increase the range of linking devices / expressions learners have available to them, and in particular focuses on five relatively simple devices:  In order to  /  so that  /  as  /  in case  /  otherwise.

The lesson as given would probably be best for Intermediate, Upper Intermediate and maybe FCE as a revision lesson, though with some simple adaptation (i.e. changing the target linkers) it could easily be used for lower and higher levels.  All of the content in the lesson is provided by the learners, so it should be more meaningful and memorable for them.

The lesson is available as a pdf file to download here:  teflgeek – A lesson on linkers

If it’s not entirely suitable for your class, there are additional materials available on the web which might help you to adapt either the language focus or to extend the lesson with further activities.  Resources that I came across that might be relevant include:


As always, any feedback, comments, criticisms and queries are also welcome!

Online Teaching Tool: Kubbu

24 Mar

This website has the potential to be an invaluable online teaching tool and is worth checking out!

I only came across this the other day, but they’ve been around for a while and further research reveals that Larry Ferlazzo mentions this site in a post from 2009!

Kubbu offers a “free account” to teachers who register, which allows you to create student profiles for up to 30 learners and limits you to creating 15 resources.  I’m not sure if you can then delete old resources / student profiles and create new ones.

Here’s the list of things that Kubbu say you can do with their site:

Match – extended form of a classic matching excercise. It is an ideal tool for language practice. Matching helps assimilate new words, idioms, meanings, collocations, synonyms, etc.
Divide – used when some notions, terms, concepts or definitions must be classified into categories or groups.
Slider – a type of a dynamic quiz. It contains three types of activities, classic single and multiple choice questions with four answers, as well as a unique “climb up” quiz which leaves no place for mistakes.
Composer – a tool for teachers who want to introduce their own concept of a quiz. With Composer you can create quizzes with single and multiple choice questions, true/false questions, fill-in or short answer questions. Pictures as well as sound files can be used to make your quizzes fully multimedia and interactive.
Crossword – with a crossword generator you can create crosswords using your own list of words.

It also allows you to create / print paper versions of your tasks, so that theoretically you could give them the task on paper in class and ask them to complete it online for homework.

There is also a tracking feature that allows you to monitor learner achievement, how they did, and to track that over time, thus allowing you to track progress.

All in all, well worth a visit!

Giving Feedback – 20 ways to do it!

23 Mar

Giving feedback on classroom tasks is a tricky thing to come up with ideas for.  Broadly, I think methods can be broken down into Collaborative / Competitive / Partial / Full.  The four methods can interact, so you can have competitive partial feedback, followed by collaborative full feedback – or vice versa.

Collaborative methods might involve learners checking specific answers with you and boarding correct versions – or you can monitor and ask stronger students to board the odd correct answer.  Thus all the learners eventually, by a process of deduction and copying, end up with the right answers.  Or they might involve giving learners specific answers and asking them to show the answers to each other (as per the silent mingle).

Competitive methods will inevitably involve a certain amount of movement, energy and the occasional broken limb.  Board races, team games and points allocation all play a part.

Partial feedback methods will often involve allocating points, but not actually correcting the answers.  With multiple choice, you might say “you need 4 As, 2 Bs, 1 C and 3 Ds”.  Or my favourite is “you’ve got six wrong”.  Partial feedback methods should ideally be used for one of two purposes – either to provide additional support for a difficult task, or possibly to slow down the faster finishers, or those learners who focus more on task completion than on accuracy.

Full feedback – essentially this is making sure everyone has a correct set of answers.  It does however go a little beyond that, as you might want to check that learners understand why the answers are correct.  Concept questions and checking questions are useful here.

The twenty different ideas listed below all arose from contributions made by everyone who was at a seminar I ran at International House Coimbra on March 22nd 2011.  My thanks to the participants (Jo, Jenny, Dave T, Kate, Jessica, Vera, Alexis, Dave C, Anna, Neil, Stella, Judy, Patricia, Marta, Michael, Daniel) for their contributions.

The notes given are my understanding of the different methods that were described – if I didn’t get any of it quite right or if you have an alternative way of doing it, please let me know!

A pdf version of this post is available to download here: teflgeek – giving feedback

1. Horse Racing:

Learners are in teams, each team has a “horse” (picture cut out) stuck to the board along a “track”, presumably with the same number of squares as there are questions.  For every question a team gets right, their horse moves further along the track to the finishing line.

2.  Gambling:

Learners are in teams, each team allocated a certain number of points / amount of fictional cash to gamble with.  If they get the answer right, they win more cash – if it’s wrong they lose their stake!

3.  Connect Four:

As with the popular game (which you could use if you have it available), the object is to get a horizontal or vertical line of four.  The size of the grid can vary depending on how many questions you have to answer.  A correct answer allows a team to “drop” a token into a column that they choose.  A full explanation of the original game can be found here:  An online version of the game can be found here:

4.  Board Race:

Learners in two or three teams, which line up in files.  A relay race then ensues with one learner from each team running to the board and writing up an answer before giving the pen to the next person in the team and going to the back of the line and so on.  Points can be awarded for the fastest team to finish, then for correct answers and deductions made for spelling mistakes and so on.  I’ve found it useful to have a chair marking the “start” line, beyond which only the learners with the pens are allowed, so as to prevent crowding and cheating at the board.

5.  Group Comparison

A peer-teaching method where learners compare and correct their answers in groups.  This also means that it allows the teacher to focus on the really difficult questions as most of the easier ones will have been dealt with at the group level.

6  Changing Pairs

Similar to group comparison, but done in pairs, though different pairs to any pairwork that occurred while learners were completing the task.  A thought I just had was that you could also do this by allocating A and B to the learners and every two minutes the A’s stand up and move clockwise or the Bs stand up and move anti-clockwise.  Thus all the learners would interact with each other eventually.

7  Answer Votes

Learners vote for the answers they think are correct.

8  Read out loud:

Learners read through the text one sentence at a time, providing the answer they think is correct as they get to a gap.

9  This many wrong

When examining a completed learner exercise, don’t tell the learners which questions they got wrong, only how many questions they got wrong.  An extension of this – when a learner has got all the questions right, they can become the teacher and tell their peers how many are still incorrect.

10  Stand Up Sit down

As the teacher reads out possible answers to the question, learners stand up if they think the answer is correct and remain seated if they think it is incorrect.  Possibly easiest to run this with multiple choice tasks.

11  Mini-boards

By laminating blank A4 paper (pastel shades or white paper work best for this), you can create mini-board which learners can write on with standard board pens.  Pairs or teams can then write their answers on the boards and hold them up at the same time to show their answers.  If you don’t have laminated mini-boards available, this is a good way to make in-roads into the scrap paper pile by the photocopier.

12  On the board

You can give learners the answers on the board in a number of ways – either just writing them up in order, writing up the number of different multiple choice answers (e.g. “there are 3 A, 2 B, 1 C, 4 D”), or you could just write up the answers in random places across the board.  You could also include some distractors here, wrong answers that learners try to avoid!

13  Noughts & Crosses / Tic Tac Toe

Simple enough – learners in two teams and a correct answer wins learners a chance to take a square!

14  Round the Room

Put the answers up on the walls of the classroom, learners mingle and work out what goes where.  A variety of this might be to put the answers on the learners (post it notes / sticky taped to their backs).

15  Jenga

If you have this game available, it can be a fun way of doing feedback.  Teams with a correct answer can either elect to remove a block or make the other team remove a block.  A full description of jenga can be found here:  An online version (requires FLASH) can be found here:

16  First Letter Last Letter

As a partial feedback technique, give teams the first and last letters of each answer.

17  Bin Basketball

Teams with a correct answer win the chance to throw a paper ball into the rubbish bin.  Make sure they don’t through away the handout!  An alternative for multiple choice tasks might be to have four bins, marked A, B, C & D and learners throw their paper balls at the correct basket (might need different coloured paper balls?).

18  Coloured Tick method

Learners are in different teams, allocated to a different colour board pen.  Question numbers are on the board.  As learners think they have a correct answer, they check it with you and are either told right or wrong.  If they are right, they get a tick in their team’s colour next to the relevant question.  That question is then gone and can’t be answered by other teams.

19  The square game.

For this you need to put a dot grid (i.e. three rows of three dots) on the board.  Each team is allocated a different colour board pen.  On giving a correct answer, each team gets the chance to connect two of the dots in their colour.  The object is to complete a square.  Squares can be made of different coloured lines, but the team that draws the line which completes the square gets to colour the square in their team’s colour.

20  TPR answers

Give each learner one of the answers and learners put themselves in the correct order for the text.


If anyone would like any further clarification of the tasks or actitvities listed, please let me know.

A pdf version of this post is available to download here: teflgeek – giving feedback

Guardian TEFL Q&A session

23 Mar

The Guardian careers section is holding a live Q&A session with a panel of TEFL experts.  The live Q&A kicks off at 1pm (London time) – so in about 25 minutes!

You can access the discussion here:

The discussion is aimed more at people who are planning careers in TEFL and haven’t quite started out yet, though as this is a careers development discussion, I would expect some comment on possible career paths within the industry!  So it might be worth a look for those of us who’ve been where we are for a while and fancy a bit of a change?

Twenty-Six different ways to do Gapfills / Cloze tasks

22 Mar

UPDATED – from fifteen to twenty six!  Many thanks to all those who contributed their ideas!

Does what it says on the tin!  As part of a recent seminar –  I have collected, invented, developed and stolen these fifteen alternatives to just giving the learners a gapfill task and then asking / telling them the answers.  Some of them you’ll know, others you may have known and forgotten, and some may get you wondering why anyone would do that to a fellow human being…  but hopefully all of them will be useful!

This post is also available as a pdf download by clicking here:  teflgeek – twenty six different ways to do gapfills.


Acknowledgement:  The activities given here were first presented during a seminar I gave at the International House Portugal Training Day on February 5th 2011, and subsequently as a seminar at International House Coimbra on March 22nd 2011.

1. Round the room Gapfill

Divide the text into paragraphs / sentences and post round the room.  Learners write the gap numbers (e.g. 1 – 10) on a piece of paper and walk around the room, doing the task as an open cloze, writing down the words they think should go in the gap – either in English or their own language.  Partial feedback – dictate the answers out of order and learners write them down next to their original answers.  Learners go back to the round the room text and check their ideas.  Full feedback.

2. TPR Gapfill

Give each learner a copy of the gapped text.  Give each learner one of the target words.  Learners then arrange themselves physically in the correct order.  Partial Feedback – give number of incorrect answers.  Full feedback – refer SS to full text (written record).

3. Banana Dictation

Learners write the gap numbers (e.g. 1 – 10) on a piece of paper.  The teacher reads out the gapfill, saying the word “banana” instead of the gapped word.  Learners write down a possible alternative.  Partial feedback – Give learners the gapped text and allow them to compare their ideas in two groups and put their answers on the board.  Full feedback – teacher gives number of correct answers and corrects wrong answers.

4. Shouting Banana Dictation

Divide the target text into two halves, ideally on a sentence by sentence basis to ensure that learners take turns during the rest of the activity.  Divide the class into two groups.  Group A gets one half and group B gets the other.  Ask each group stand / sit on opposite sides of the room, so that each member of group A is facing a partner in group B.  Learners take turns to read one sentence from their half of the text, saying Banana where there is a gap, and their partner has to guess what the word should be.  Feedback.

5. Running Banana Dictation Gapfill

The teacher posts the gapped text outside the classroom (next to the DoS office is always a favourite).  Learners pair up and run, read, relate and write, but – instead of relaying the “banana”, they have to say what they think should go in the gap.  Feedback – Learners swap their written texts with each other and compare them with an original ungapped version, assigning marks for transcription accuracy and correct gapped words.

6. Mad Libs Style

Take a gapped text and work out which part of speech each gap represents (i.e. article, noun, etc).  Dictate the parts of speech in sequence (i.e.  Number 1 – noun.  Number 2 auxiliary verb) and learners write down an example of that part of speech (i.e. 1 – elephant,  2 – has).  You can give more guidance if you want, e.g. number 1 – an animal.

Then either give learners the gapped text to transfer their words into, or dictate the gapped text with learners adding in their words as they go.  Learners can then compare their texts, enjoy the ensuing hilarity, and then try to “correct” the texts.  This can be useful to focus on lexical chunks, and on grammatical structures.

7. Silent Mingle ( this one comes courtesy of Jamie Conway)

Give each learner a copy of the text and one (or two depending on class size) of the target words.  Learners do a “silent mingle”, moving around the room, but NOT telling each other the answers, ONLY showing each other the word(s) they have.  Learners then get all the words and put them in the right place.  Feedback

8. Who Wants to be a Millionaire? has a version, as do and, which has a blank template and various pre-made versions relating to the UK primary curriculum.

Effectively mimicking the style and format of the highly popular quiz show, learners are given different multiple choice options for each question, correct answers bringing them closer to the one million pound prize!

9. Wrong Words

Instead of giving learners a gapped text, give them a text in which the target words have been substituted for weird and wonderful alternatives.  Learners then have to pick out the words they think are wrong, and change them for the words they think are right!

10. Banana Dictation Word Grab.

Put the target words if from an open cloze, or all of the possible words if adapting a multiple choice version, round the room / school / hidden in the DoS office.  The teacher then reads out the gapped text as per a banana dictation.  When learners think they know the correct word for the gap, they grab the word as quickly as they can.  This can be done in teams or on an individual basis.  The teacher continues repeating the dictation until all the words have been grabbed.

11. Grammar Gaps

Not exactly a Cloze task, but getting Clozer all the time! (sorry).

Remove the concrete from the brick wall, just leaving the bricks! – So in other words, re-create the gapped text as one that only contains “content” words, i.e. nouns, main verbs, adjectives, adverbs etc.  leave all the “function” words out.  Learners then recreate the text as best they can.  As a way to provide more support, display a copy of the gapped text on the board.  learners can come to you and check if they have a correct word, if they do, they can board it in the correct place.  Thus by the end, they will have collaboratively arrived at a completed text.

12. Reverse Gapfill

This one needs a little bit of pre-preparation and would be easier to work with an Interactive Whiteboard / projector and subsequent powerpoint slides.

Basically, you start with a complete text, but then slowly remove words from the text (it can be random, but it works more effectively if you start removing words from the beginning, thus corresponding with the stage of copying that the learners are at).  By the end of the first stage, you should have a blank, or nearly blank board.  At which point, you can put the learners into two groups, divide the board in two and get each group to put the whole thing back again.

Full feedback – compare with the original.

13. Gaps?  What gaps?

Take a gapped text and retype with without the gaps, but with still with words missing.  Learners therefore first have to find the gaps, before deciding what to put in them.

14. DIY Gapfill – thanks to Simon Thomas ( for this one:

This one, I think originally comes from Mario Rinvolucri’s “Humanising your coursebook” – essentially, you give the SS a variety of texts and they create their own gapfills, either blacking out the target words with felt tip (make sure it can’t be read on the reverse) or on the computers…  This is a good way of raising awareness of what is typically gapped in exam tasks, but can also be used to focus on target vocabulary or language points (i.e. gap all the verbs).

15.  Multiple Choice Wordle

Take the multiple choice options from your gapfill and wordle ( them.  Learners then have to work out which words form the four multiple choice options for each possible gap.  Partial feedback – give learners the gapped text and a blank table to complete.  Or give them the multiple choice options.


The above were my original fifteen ways – since giving the seminar I have more to add – thanks to all the participants (Jo, Jenny, Dave T, Kate, Jessica, Vera, Alexis, Dave C, Anna, Neil, Stella, Judy, Patricia, Marta, Michael, Daniel) for their contributions, which are listed here below, but I’m not sure who said what!


16.  Memory Cloze

Do the text initially as a reading task, possibly with a gist task and then with a detailed reading task and then give it as a gapped text.  This can be a nice noticing task, where learners’ attention is drawn to lexical chunks / collocations and the like.

17.  Red Herrings

This can be run either as an activity in itself, or can be used as a partial feedback technique.  Learners are given the answers with an additional set of “distractors”, and must choose the correct answers from the expanded set.

18.  Flashcard / Picture Cloze

As learners are attempting to complete the gapped text, the teacher can display visual clues, either direct representations (i.e. a picture of an elephant if the gapped word is “elephant”) or a picture from which learners can infer the answer (i.e. a picture of people arguing if the gapped word is debate).  These could be posted round the room, or just displayed one at a time as partial feedback.

19.  Info-Gap

Here learners have two different versions of the text, where the gapped words in text A are different to the gapped words in text B.  Learners are then paired and exchange the information to complete the gaps.  This type of task can be adapted for use with many of the other ideas presented here.

20.  Anagram cloze

Here the answers are given as a set of anagrams, which learners must unjumble before placing correctly.  This could be used simply with the answer set, or with the answer set and distractors, or with a complete set of options from a multiple-choice cloze task.

21.  Coded Cloze

Here, either the text or the answer set or both, are presented in a “code” form, with a decryption key for learners to work with.  A simple way of creating these is to use one of the “Wingdings” font sets in Microsoft Word or Open Office documents.

22.  De-lettered cloze

Remove either the vowels or, more challengingly, the consonants from the answer sets.  Or possibly the original text, or both?

23.  Miming Cloze

This would possibly work best with an info-gap type cloze task, where learners “mime” the answers to their partner’s gapped text.

24.  One Letter at a time

Learners are put into teams and the teacher begins to read the answer(s) one letter at a time.  The first team to correctly guess the gapped word gets a point.  An alternative is to do this as a board race, so each team has to write their answer on the board with three points for a correct answer.  Points could then be taken away for an incorrect guess / incorrect spelling.

25.  Sticky Board Cloze

Similar to a word grab – the learners are in three teams and each team has a set of answer words stuck to the board (post it notes?).  So for three teams, with a ten word cloze, there would be thirty words stuck to the board.  Learners from each team take turns to come up, take a word from the board, return to their team and put the word in the correct place.  At this stage, learners could need to present a correct answer before proceeding to the next word, or learners could try to complete the whole text with points then awarded for speed and accuracy!

26  “STOP!”

Create a “wrong words” version of the gapped text where you replace the target words with incorrect alternatives.  Learners can be given the text for support, or not with more advanced classes.  The teacher then reads out the text with learners shouting “STOP!” every time they identify an incorrect word.  They can be given points for this and additional points for identifying the correct replacement.  If not all incorrect words are identified, the teacher re-reads the text until either, all the answers are boarded, or there is silence and no-one can guess any remaining answers.


If any of the procedures above need further clarification or – more importantly – if anyone has a task to add to this list, please let me know!


This post is also available as a pdf download by clicking here:  teflgeek – twenty six different ways to do gapfills.

More dependent prepositions resources

18 Mar

It only occurred to me later that there’s probably a wealth of material already out there in webspace on dependent prepositions and that it wouldn’t be too difficult or time consuming to look for some of it…

So here’s a brief run down, in no particular order, of what I found:

IH Bristol has a nice online multiple choice cloze task under “Advanced Grammar: Dependent Prepositions“.  They also have links to a lot of other online grammar activities.

The BBC World Service “Learning English” section also has a similar (and shorter) Adjectives & Prepositions quiz

Predictably, the British Council has what looks like an excellent range of online resources for different ages and abilities, though I haven’t played with them all yet.

And of course, another blogger, mbgortiz,  has already done all this and has a list of six links for dependent prepositions, all of which are to online cloze tasks in varying forms!

Someone called Ana B has created a dependent prepositions boardgame for eslprintables, who do require registration before download.

Finally the fun prize goes to a Canadian education centre for their help the cat catch the mouse flash game, though strictly speaking they should be disqualified as the game is more prepositions of place than dependent prepositions per se.

(The picture comes from a slightly confusing website:


Dependent Prepositions

17 Mar

It’s a slightly strange phrase that – dependent prepositions – gives you the slight air of a bunch of small words hanging around a much larger word who feeds and clothes them and goes and and earns a wage with which to support them.  Which I suppose in a way they are.  And how do you spell “dependent”?  like that or like this “dependant”?  I’m fairly sure one is American English and the other British English but not sure which way round it goes!

Anyway – here’s a lesson I did the other day with a CAE class, though I think with a little tweaking it could also work well at FCE and also possibly at CPE, though with the latter you might need something else to fill a bit of time at the end.  It also irks me slightly that I didn’t get some kind of productive use into the plan, so any ideas to add something in there would be welcome!

For what it’s worth – here’s the link:  teflgeek – Dependent Prepositions – enjoy!

As always, any feedback, comments, criticisms and queries are also welcome!