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Assess overall understanding with a cloze activity

December 14, 2011

Assess overall understanding with a cloze activity

Cloze is short for closure. So a cloze activity can bring closure to a reading assignment by assessing how well students understood a passage after reading independently. During a cloze activity, students complete a fill-in-the-blank summary of the passage WITHOUT looking back at the original text. The blanks represent key vocabulary, specific details, and main ideas students should have gleaned from the original passage.

Students often go into an after-reading cloze activity thinking it will be easy. However, because the fill-in-the-blank passage is a paraphrase of the original text, students who didn’t glean specific details from the reading could potentially make many different (incorrect) words fit any blank. To help you appreciate this, imagine the teacher assigned a textbook section to be read about nurturing and caring for dependents.

Then the teacher asked you to complete the following cloze paraphrase. (TIP: Read the entire passage before beginning to fill in the blanks.) A weak reader not paying attention when reading could still complete the cloze paraphrase using only his background knowledge. But that would not have resulted in the correct information. (Compare your answers to the answer key.) We need to teach students to read texts carefully so they are comprehending the new ideas.

Create your own cloze activity.

  1. First, identify a future independent reading assignment. What pages in the textbook would you assign for homework or in-class reading?
  2. Before assigning that reading to students, write a thorough paraphrase yourself that includes the big ideas and concepts outlined in that passage. (Think of this as an ideal, meaty summary of the text. It should not be a word-for-word repeat of the original passage.) Include key vocabulary words from the original text within your paraphrase, including how those terms relate to one another.
  3. Now, turn your specific summary into a cloze passage by replacing the concepts and key terms with blanks. Delete nouns, main verbs, adjectives, and adverbs that carry specific content meaning.

    For cloze activity examples sorted by content area/topic, click here.

    In addition to writing the paraphrase and choosing which words to omit, you can also determine how hard or easy you want to make the activity. There are four ways to format a cloze passage.

    • You can omit the words entirely, making each line an equal length to challenge your strongest readers.
      You can omit the words entirely, but adjust the line length to represent longer words or shorter words. (This is still very challenging.)
    • You can provide the first letter or two of each missing word, to make the activity a little easier. (This is the format used in the downloadable example.)
    • You can provide a word bank for students to choose from, differentiating this activity for your most struggling readers.

    The cloze activity informs the teacher where the students are in their ability to comprehend when reading independently. After determining the results of the students’ cloze answers, a teacher can then recalibrate future instruction to clarify inaccurate information and fix-up misunderstandings.

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