Szövegdoboz: Gap-fill Tasks from Sofa School -  Principles and Benefits
 
Having experimented with gap-fill exercises for teaching ESL students, I give you a short summary of my findings on methods and strategy. 
 
            Gap-fills are one of the best ways to make students have a go at the exercises again and again.
            The reading material on this web site comes from various sources and covers a wide range of topics and always aims to be tempting enough for students to redo the exercise.
            Doing these exercises can give the student a sense of real achievement and a strong desire to try it again and do better.
            Students should improve their way of reading for gist and using a dictionary. Most of all, they can learn how to select essential words while ignoring others. 
            Language learners could develop an ability to guess, based on some form of assumption, then immediately see whether they were right or wrong.
            Students can easily get used to working independently and dealing with the task at their own speed. 
            Provided that the student has a genuine interest in the selected exercise, progress and long-term benefits are inevitable.
 

 
On the plus side, carefully created and well-chosen gap-fills 
 
            provide students with authentic material, interesting topics and characters
            help students read with a clear purpose
            help students read better without relying heavily on a dictionary 
            shift the focus on grammar points to reading for pleasure
            teach a lot of useful vocabulary (phrases, expressions) always in context 
            increase language awareness greatly by exposing students to authentic material only
            enable motivated students to do revision on exercises of their choice
 

 
The worst and most common pitfall of providing gap-fills as useful work on language study is when a text article is badly chosen. For testing students’ abilities, that can be tolerable. No student would ever be likely to redo an exercise that is simply pointless or tiresome once the lesson or exam is over. Often the best solution is to edit the original text. You may shorten it if necessary to suit the students’ needs better. A clever pre-task or a warm-up exercise can ease the pressure. Then students can have a go at the task, which is graded to their level. Make sure your students have had the opportunity to get familiar with the topic before tackling the material with missing words.
 

 
To sum it all up; carefully chosen gap-fills, for a well-researched group of students, will certainly give pleasure and invaluable help for reading, will increase vocabulary as well as improve knowledge on grammar. Provided the teacher has done thorough research on the subject matter and shares enthusiasm for it with the students, this kind of language study is bound to succeed.
 

 
Why not share your views on the subject with
Mr Miklos David, Director for Sofa School:
sofaschool@freemail.hu