Cloze passages proliferate in many schools, often from a mistaken belief that students are ‘doing more literacy’. The name cloze comes from the German clozur, which means closure or completion.
Cloze exercises are used by teachers and do have a place. They were, however, never intended as a way of improving writing. Cloze passages should be used sparingly, especially if school data indicates that writing is poor.
As a general rule, leave the first and last sentences or text intact and do not omit more than one in ten words. The omission of too many words may make it difficult for students to comprehend the text sufficiently to be able to select missing words. As students read, they insert words that enable them to make sense of the text. Sometimes the words are supplied; at other times they are not. If supplying the words, always give a couple more than required so students have to think before they select the correct words. If, for example, there are five spaces, give eight words.
If you want to focus on particular parts of speech such as pronouns, prepositions, adjectives or adverbs then these words that can be omitted. It’s also useful to omit connectives such as those that show a cause/effect relationship, sequencing and comparing. Again, avoid giving students the words in these examples as it forces them to think about the meaning of the ideas in the text and how those ideas are linked. Also, the best ‘spaces’ to leave are those that can be filled with a number of words.
EXAMPLE: COGNITIVE VERBS – WHAT ARE THEY?
- These are the words (verbs) that _________ students. (direct, instruct, guide, question)
- They make it clear how a _________ should be answered. (question, task)
- Different questions (verbs) asked of the same _________ will produce different answers. (content, information)
More ideas for using cloze activities can be found in Hooking Students into Learning … in all Curriculum Areas.