How to Use Cloze Reading in Your ESL Classroom [With Sample Exercises]

Cloze reading is a technique used to assess reading comprehension by having students fill in missing words or phrases within a given text.

Cloze reading activities can encourage your students to read more carefully, use context clues and focus on the “big picture” use of English, which are all essential skills for strong readers.

Plus, these activities don’t take long to prepare or score, so they’re a win-win for all of us time-crunched teachers!

In this article, I’ll show you how to use cloze reading effectively in your ESL classroom and give you three sample exercises you can use in your English lessons.


What Is Cloze Reading?

Cloze reading techniques were developed in the 1950s to determine readability levels of texts. Educators recognized their usefulness as a teaching tool and began utilizing them. 

To prepare a cloze reading activity, you simply take a written passage or a set of sentences and remove some of the words. Typically, you include those words in a “word bank” for your students, and then ask them to read the passage and fill in the missing words.

You can use this technique to quiz your students on vocabulary, verbs, commonly confused words and more. 

The key to the successful use of this technique is having a clear idea of what you’re teaching and then effectively choosing your passages and preparing the activity accordingly.

Applications of Cloze Reading for ESL Students

Cloze reading is an incredibly valuable teaching tool, which can be used to help students do all of the following:

  • Focus on the big picture. Cloze activities are often timed or unfold in real time (as with reading), so students can’t simply try answer after answer to arrive at a solution. This pushes them to rely on “big picture” thinking and understand language holistically, instead of puzzling over the meaning of every word.
  • Make predictions using context clues. With cloze reading, students learn to think about words in categories (verbs, adjectives, transition words, etc.), predicting what will come using the context clues provided. These are two of the most important skills that readers can develop.
  • Get exposed to more challenging texts. Cloze reading can help introduce students to more difficult reading material because they’re given a short excerpt and are focused on the goal of filling in each blank correctly, rather than understanding everything (which often causes frustration with challenging texts).
  • Practice listening skills. By reading the cloze reading excerpt out loud to your students, they may be able to hear the words that have been omitted. This is particularly useful when working on words that can be hard to distinguish from one another for English language learners.

Overall, incorporating cloze reading activities in ESL lessons enhances a variety of language and thinking skills, making it a valuable tool for any classroom.

Examples of Cloze Reading Activities 

The activities below illustrate a few of the ways in which you can use cloze reading in your class. 

This first exercise uses more advanced vocabulary, including nouns, adjectives and verbs. You can tell your student to think about the parts of speech of each word and then use context clues to figure out what parts of speech must fit into each blank.

Word Bank: adventure — ancient — delicious — discovered — explore — fascinated

I recently went on an _______ to Egypt, a land full of mystery and

history. I was _______ by the breathtaking pyramids and the rich culture

of the Egyptian people. During my trip, I had the opportunity to _______

the _______ ruins of the pharaohs and learn about their fascinating

civilization. The local cuisine was also a highlight of the trip; I tasted some

_______ dishes that were simply amazing. It was an incredible journey

where I _______ new things every day.

In the next exercise, students must fill in the blanks with different verbs. If your students are more advanced, you can give them an exercise in which they’re only provided with the infinitive form of the verbs and must conjugate them to fill in the blanks.

Word Bank: study — cook — play — read — run — sing

My friend and I _______ together every afternoon. We _______ English

and practice speaking. In the evening, we often _______ our favorite

songs and have a mini concert at home. On weekends, we like to

_______ in the park and have a picnic. Sometimes, we also _______

delicious meals together and try out new recipes. We enjoy spending time

together and having fun!

The last example shows you a way to use cloze reading to focus on commonly confused transition words. Note that the word bank contains more words than can be used; this ensures that the students can’t simply use the process of elimination to fill in some blanks. 

Word Bank: as a result — for instance — however — nevertheless — similarly — then — therefore — third

1. She had been studying for hours. _______, she hoped to do well on the test.

2. First, Mary went to the store. _______, she went to visit her mother.

3. I would like to read many books; _______, I don’t seem to have enough time to read.

4. John ate and ate; _______, he never gained weight.

5. Joe ate too fast. _______, he had indigestion.


Now that you have a sense of the many ways you can use cloze reading in your classroom, you can start creating your own activities. 

Incorporate them into a diverse variety of other engaging ESL activities and your students will thank you for it! 

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe