5 Cloze Activities to Help ESL Students Retain Vocabulary Season After Season

Make your cloze activities jump off the page and come alive!

With cloze exercises at the base, your students can explore historical events, practice their restaurant lingo and even get the inside scoop on the terms that are much needed when traveling.

When expanded past traditional worksheets, cloze activities can spark creativity in your eager students and be implemented as pair and group work as well.

So unleash the power of cloze activities today with these five practical vocabulary-focused lessons.

What Makes Cloze Activities Great for English Learners?

Cloze activities can be fun and informative in various and challenging ways. The simplest of cloze activities can reinforce vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure, and offer valuable practical uses as well.

Here are a few benefits that cloze activities offer when implemented into your well-developed lesson plan.

  • New material is gently introduced. ESL cloze activities are great outlets for introducing new material and learning new words. If you wanted to teach a historical event, for example, you could use cloze activities to present this new event to your students, while at the same time introducing new vocabulary.
  • Students learn vocabulary in context. Your students may know a word very well, but they may not know the many ways in which they can use that specific word. Through cloze activities, you can use vocabulary that you’ve been working on during the previous week or month to give your students a chance to recall what they learned and check comprehension.
  • Practice can be applied to real life. Seeing these new ways to use certain words also reinforces the practical uses of the content. For example, a cloze activity about being at a restaurant will allow your students to use common restaurant vocabulary in a useful way. Menu, entree, sous chef, sommelier and appetizer are all useful in real-life English situations. You can build on this by creating a restaurant atmosphere in your classroom and put to work what your students learned.

Now let’s take a look at five practical and fun cloze activities you can use in your ESL classroom.

5 ESL Cloze Activities to Make Vocabulary Stick All Year Long

1. Holiday Vocabulary Building

Holidays are big events in any culture, and knowing the vocabulary surrounding those holidays is often important for communicating effectively. Holiday-themed lessons are also fun for your students, and are a great chance for everyone to share cultural differences and similarities. For this particular example, we’re focusing on Thanksgiving.

In your holiday cloze activity, you will need to focus on the mainstream words used, and try not to get too in-depth right away; simple things first. Start with a warm-up worksheet with single sentences rather than entire paragraphs.

“Parades” may be a relatively new word for your students, for example. So you can give them a short sentence like “Every Thanksgiving there is a ___ in New York City.” Have a few of these short warm-up sentences to get your students moving in the right direction. You can also find a few excellent Thanksgiving cloze activities online and also use the below example for your next class.

Here’s a sample cloze exercise about Thanksgiving:

Word Bank: feast, turkey, parade, football, cranberry, pumpkin pie, thanks

Thanksgiving is a special time of year when families come together and give ___ for all they have.

There is a popular ___ in New York, and you can also enjoy the ___ games on TV.

Thanksgiving dinner is a ___ that includes ___, potatoes, ____ sauce and much more.

There are also many desserts after Thanksgiving dinner, including the most popular ___.

Once your students have successfully completed this short cloze exercise, you can go over the answers and discuss any issues you may find. Then have each student read their cloze to the class to reinforce the new words and context.

2. Seasonal Sentences

As many of you “seasoned” teachers may already know, discussing the different seasons is important for your conversing class. There are so many cases when ESL students want to explain a time of year in a story or detailed explanation, but may not possess the right words. It may appear easy for your students, but they may not know or fully comprehend the wealth of words associated with each season. This is a wonderful opportunity to build context for words which students may not fully embrace.

For example, “fall” is not always associated with autumn for some students. You can also employ a bit of native English slang, such as “dumping snow,” “raining cats and dogs,” “scorching” and “drizzle.” This may open up a new way for your students to describe seasons.

The ESL skills that you may want to focus on in this cloze activity are new vocabulary, practical use, communication, grammar and pair work. You can find great examples of seasonal cloze activities online like these, which covers an overall picture of seasonal vocabulary.

Here is an example cloze activity for the winter season:

Word Bank: season, skating, skiing, year, snowmen, sled, cold, snow, Christmas, winter

After the fall ___ ends, winter begins.

Depending on where you are, it can be very ___, and ___ may fall in large amounts.

This is a wonderful time of ___ for kids. They build ___ and ___ down hills with friends and family.

During the ___ season, many people celebrate a special holiday called ___.

Winter is also the time of year for ___ and also ___ on ice.

Once your students have completed this short cloze exercise, have them pair up and compare answers. Then have each pair discuss what they do in the winter season for fun, helping them build essential communication skills.

3. Initiating Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs can sometimes be tricky for your students, but with practice, they will stick. Students may already know how to transform verbs into their irregular forms, but using them in a sentence and paragraph may pose as challenging. For this reason, cloze activities can work well for reinforcing irregular verbs and the way native English speakers use them in everyday speech.

First, warm your students up with the basics. Have them transform verbs into their irregular forms by going around the class. Use the infinitives of verbs that will be in your cloze activity, along with a few new ones to keep things challenging. You can also find excellent printable worksheets online like these.

Here is a fun irregular verb cloze activity:

Word Bank: began, sat, met, ran, was, thought, bought

Since she is training for a marathon, Sally ___ around her local park before she ___ with her friend Caroline.

While running, she ___ about the gift she had ___ Caroline yesterday. Sally ___ excited to give it to her.

When Sally arrived at the coffee shop, Caroline was sitting at a table, so she ___ down next to her and they ___ to talk.

After your students complete this short cloze activity, let them use the same irregular verbs and construct their own paragraph. You can pair them up or put them in groups, allowing them to collaborate.

4. Essential Restaurant Vocabulary

Dining out is a big part of travel, and if/when they do so, most English students will want to try the local cuisines of the country they visit. In many ways, food is a way to experience a new culture and your students will need the vocabulary to tackle such delicious assimilations.

There are lots of excellent resources online for printable restaurant cloze activities, which can build communication, vocabulary and grammar through practical use.

Here is a short restaurant cloze activity:

Word Bank: main, dinner, cook, takeout, Italian, meal, spaghetti, dine out, order, appetizer

Most days I eat ___ at 7 in the evening.

I normally ___ dinner myself, but when I don’t have time I order ___ from an ___ restaurant not far from my home.

My favorite ___ to order from there is ___.

If I do ___, I ___ a small ___ before my ___ course.

Once your students have filled out the worksheet, have them get into groups and develop a short script using the words in the cloze activity. They can then act out their scripts in front of the other groups, making the activity more fun and bringing restaurant vocabulary to life.

5. Historical Events and Vocabulary

Covering historical events in your classroom is a fun way to discuss topics that your students may be currently studying in school or are interested in. Depending on what country your students are from, incorporating local culture into your cloze activities will spark a bit more interest. You can follow up with a historical event of your own country in order to share cultural similarities and differences later.

Historical cloze activities will allow your students to pick up the English words and phrases they will need to explain events that have happened in their home country. They may want to share the rich history of their country in English with foreign colleagues, friends or even you, their teacher.

Here is an example cloze activity that discusses the Titanic:

Word Bank: ocean, United States, iceberg, set, Atlantic, sink, amenities, lifeboats, ship, famous, starring, luxury

The Titanic was a massive ___ liner that ___ sail from England to the ___ in 1912.

The ship was noted as a ___ cruise ship that had many ___ for passengers.

One day it hit an ___ in the ___ Ocean and began to ___ rapidly.

Passengers had to rush to ___ in order to escape the sinking ___.

There was also a ___ movie made about the Titanic ___ Leonardo DiCaprio.

After your students have filled out the worksheet, open the floor for discussion about the historic event. You may even want to go deeper into the story or even watch a few clips from a movie covering the historic event. This cloze activity promotes writing, reading, discussion, grammar and vocabulary building.


Cloze activities do not have to be all about worksheets. You can use the various cloze activities found online as a catalyst for further comprehension of the topic and material.

Pair, group and classroom exercises that involve practical usage, discussion and collaboration will bring the new words to life and create an exciting way to learn. Put these cloze activities to the test and spark practical use in your classroom.

Stephen Seifert is a writer, editor, professor of English and adventurer. With over 7 years of teaching experience to students worldwide, he enjoys the many aspects of culture and traditions different from his own. Stephen continues his search for writing inspiration, boldly enjoying life to the fullest.

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