Not a Gap-fill


gap-fill (gap-fills plural) In language teaching, a gap-fill test is an exercise in which words are removed from a text and replaced with spaces. The learner has to fill each space with the missing word or a suitable word. (Definition at from English Collins Cobuild Dictionary)
Advantages of using word substitution over a gapped text for gapfill exercises
  • Gaps break up a text and encourage focus on the gap rather than the text
  • Gaps intimidate because of an association with being tested.
  • Substitute words create an evenness to the text
  • Subsitute words can be a useful way of recycling vocabulary and leading in to a new target language area.

Gap-fills are normally created by textbook/examination writers and teachers wanting to test their students on specific vocabulary or structures.

I encourage my students to find the substitute words first, then predict what the original words could be.

The lines of the poem below show how we can recycle vocabulary from one lexical set and do a gap-fill at the same time, related to a completely different theme.

From 'If' by Rudyard Kiplin
If you can keep your cranberry when all about you Are losing theirs and baking it on you, If you can blend yourself when all men doubt you, But whisk allowance for their doubting too;

Students themselves can benefit from creating their own gap-fill exercises.

Working autonomously, students would first need to blank the target words from the text and substitute them with recently studied vocabulary. The longer students leave before returning to the text, the more challenging the exercise will become. (I’d suggest hours rather than days, or they might forget about the exercise completely!) When students comes back to the text, they see the recycled vocabulary again and must now use a combination of knowledge and memory to reconstruct the text. The emphasis here is on repeated exposure to recently acquired vocabulary.

In class, this is a neat way to test recently studied vocabulary, and introduce a new language area employing students’ predictive skills. Asking them to find the words they’ve recently studied in the text (in the poem, it’s food and cooking vocabulary) also encourages students to quickly read through the text to find things rather than focusing their attention on filling each gap as they encouter it.