Cloze procedures are tasks where learners fill in the blanks in a text from which entire words have been omitted. Learners decide on the most appropriate words to fill the gaps from a bank of provided words. The word ‘cloze’ (close) is derived from the word ‘closure’, whereby participants complete a not quite finished pattern or text by inserting or choosing words to give the text closure (Walter, 1974).
Officially, the cloze procedure is 70 years old. It was formally introduced in a journalistic periodical by Wilson Taylor in 1953. By 1962, the cloze procedure was being utilised in the classroom. Cloze procedures are widely used as both a research tool and as a testing and teaching device (Sadeghi, 2008).
Cloze procedures can be used for teaching or testing. In this article, we focus on the use of cloze procedures as a tool for teaching EAL pupils reading skills.
According to Raymond, the cloze procedure can be used by EAL teachers to teach reading skills because it goes beyond the demands of normal reading. It helps readers recognise the interrelationship between words and develop an awareness of sequence, both of which could help prediction (Raymond, 1988). Upskilling EAL pupils in prediction is especially important, as it provides practice in guessing meaning from context. This is a vital reading strategy for EAL learners, because for these pupils, there will be many more new vocabulary items to contend with when reading a text than for their native-English-speaking counterparts. Thus, training in guessing meaning from context becomes even more important.
In essence, for EAL readers, all ‘natural’ texts resemble cloze texts, because the unknown vocabulary words represent blanks for them. For EAL pupils, the skills necessary to ‘close’ a text are therefore comparable to those required for reading. Teaching cloze strategies is, in effect, teaching reading strategies for EAL pupils (Raymond, 1988).
When planning a cloze activity, it is important to consider the readability of the text and the reading ability of the learner. If the text is beyond the independent reading level of the learner, it will only lead to frustration. For this reason, the use of the cloze procedure to teach reading is recommended for intermediate-proficiency EAL pupils (Raymond, 1988).
Choosing a passage that interests the pupils – a passage that they would want to discuss – is of high importance. Other important factors in preparing the passage are: the position of word deletion, the frequency of deletion, and the length of the available context to assist learners with their choices. All of these are factors that can make the activity more (or less) difficult.
To determine the ease of reading a piece of text, as measured by the frequency of the words used, you can manually consult a High Frequency word list. For those of you using the Learning Village, our Word frequency tool makes this simpler, by automatically analysing the different word types in a text at the press of a button. You can then use our Text builder tool to create a cloze procedure. (The ‘developer’ tool in Microsoft Word will allow you to do this manually if you’re not signed up to the Learning Village.)
As we have seen, cloze procedures can be important when teaching EAL pupils – in effect, teaching fundamental reading strategies to EAL learners. Cloze procedures can be used, for example, to build up the familiarity of a certain piece of text, to focus on specific words, or even as a writing frame to scaffold a pupil’s attempts at writing.
Using the button at the top and bottom of this article you can download a cloze procedure with associated flashcards based on World Laughter Day, which occurs on 3rd May 2021.
Author: Isabelle Bridger-Eames, EAL Specialist