ESL Listening Cloze Exercise

Listening Cloze

Cloze exercises are a regular part of an English teacher’s resource … or should be. These fill in the blank exercises help students improve English listening fluency by focusing on word sounds. They can also help ESL students learn vocabulary.

What is a cloze exercise?

It starts with a passage. Some words are deleted and replaced with a blank. The passage is given to students on paper or orally. Students think about the text and try to figure out what word or phrase goes in the blank. Cloze tests are good for checking student vocabulary and their ability to understand meaning.

When preparing a cloze exercise, some people simply delete every nth word. That might be okay for reading passages. Some professionals recommend every 50th word for listening passages. If there too many blanks, students are not able to keep up with the oral version of the text.

Also don’t insert blanks in the first couple of sentences of a long passage. These sentences are important. They introduce the general topic and provide context which helps students guess when meaning is uncertain.

Fun With Cloze

Here are three ways to have fun with a cloze exercise.

Words That Don’t Fit

Give students the cloze page with blanks inserted for the target language. Teacher reads the complete text at a moderate pace. Teacher sometimes reads the correct word for a blank. Sometimes teacher inserts a word that is obviously not correct for that blank.

For example, “Thomas Edison is famous for inventing the smartphone.”

When the students hear a word that doesn’t make sense, they’ll let you know …. in some noisy way.

Banana Blank

Here’s slight variation on the above exercise. Hand out the cloze page or ask students to write the numbers 1-10 in the notebook. Read the passage. For each blank, say the word ‘banana.’ The student task is listen to the passage and use their best reasoning to fill in the blank with the correct answer … or a good fit.

This is an especially good review technique for passages that students read a week or so prior.

Mad Libs

Hand out the paper with cloze passage. Ask students, maybe in pairs, to fill in the blanks with their best guesses for the correct answers. Expect (sic encourage) students to write wacky answer in the blanks.

It’s a great way to review vocabulary as well as parts of speech and subject-verb agreement at the same time.

For lower levels students, add parts of speech hints after each blank so they have a good idea of what kind of word to write in. Here is a good example of a mad lib paper with parts of speech hints.

Here is a link to the original Mad Libs site.

This site helps students generate Mad Libs.

Other Resources

A short article with interesting ideas for classroom listening exercises.

A long list of gap fill exercises from a few years ago.

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