Gapfill exercises occur with relentlessly high frequency in coursebooks, and other supplementary materials. They are a useful, quick and focused way to check or diagnose students’ knowledge of a lexical item or a structure and, from an author’s perspective, they are also quite easy to write! Here’s my favourite way of making a normal gapfill fun, oral, and hopefully more memorable.
1 First, students complete the gapfill, working individually.
2 Students check their answers in pairs and as a whole class.
3 Give students 2–4 minutes to look back at the sentences, telling them that they are going to have to memorise these for a mini-test.
4 Put students in AB pairs and ask them to read out an example in turn to their partner. (You can omit this stage, it just gives an extra opportunity to focus on the exercise and may help the language to sink in.)
5 Ask A students to close their books. The B students then read out randomly several sentences from the exercise, say 5 if there are 7–10 sentences. Instead of the gapped target word/phrase or structure, they either say beep or put in a nonsense word of your/the class’s choice such as banana or sausage (the sillier the better!). Their partner listens to the whole ‘beeped’ sentence, then gives the missing item, eg in an exercise on affixes: My car stopped working last week because the engine sausage (overheated). You can even encourage students to change the nonsense word appropriate, to help, eg in the previous sentence they could say sausaged.
6 Students swap roles. B students close their books and their partners test them now.