10 ESL Cloze Activities to Fill in the Blanks on Missing Vocabulary
Have you implemented cloze activities in your ESL classroom yet?
Cloze activities are a teaching technique where words are omitted from a passage and students must fill in the blanks with the missing words.
These exercises can help improve comprehension, vocabulary and grammar skills for ESL learners.
They can be implemented as individual, pair or group work. And best of all, they can be used with virtually any topic you choose!
Try out these 10 topic-based cloze activities and see how they can engage your students and reinforce what you’ve taught them.
- 1. Holiday Vocabulary
- 2. Seasons and the Weather
- 3. Irregular Verbs
- 4. Food and Restaurants
- 5. Historical Events
- 6. Family and Relationships
- 7. Animals and the Environment
- 8. Clothes and Accessories
- 9. Sports and Equipment
- 10. Movies and Entertainment
- What Makes Cloze Activities Great for English Learners?
ESL Cloze Activities
1. Holiday Vocabulary
If you’re teaching a holiday-themed lesson, why not add cloze reading to engage your students and reinforce vocabulary?
Below you’ll find 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 the students read their cloze out loud to reinforce the new words and context.
2. Seasons and the Weather
Discussing the weather and seasons is a great way to teach something tangible with vocabulary that your students will probably use often. For more advanced students, you can also teach some English idioms about the weather.
You can find great seasonal cloze activities online. Here’s one example of a 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. Irregular Verbs
Irregular verbs can be tricky for ESL students, and require lots of practice for them to stick. Cloze activities can work well for reinforcing irregular verbs the way native English speakers use them in everyday speech.
Here’s an example using some common irregular verbs:
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, have them use the same irregular verbs to construct their own paragraph. For more advanced students, provide the infinitive forms of the verbs and have your students conjugate them before filling in the blanks.
4. Food and Restaurants
You can find many printable food, restaurant and cooking cloze activities online. Here’s a short one to reinforce a variety of food-related vocabulary:
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
Historical cloze activities will allow your students to pick up the English words and phrases they’ll need to explain events that have happened in their home country and around the world.
Here’s 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.
6. Family and Relationships
Before handing out a cloze activity on family, you may want to draw a family tree on the board and have your students create their own family trees to practice family words.
Here’s an example cloze activity about family and relationships:
Word Bank: cousin(s), aunt(s), grandparent(s), uncle(s), sister(s), brother(s)
My younger ______ is named Sarah and my older ______ is Jason. My
mom’s parents are my ______. They live nearby and we visit them often. My
dad’s parents live far away. I have an ______ named Lisa, who is my dad’s
sister. Her son is my favorite ______. He’s a year older than me. I also have
an ______ named David. He is my mom’s brother. He tells funny jokes and
makes us laugh. We have a great time when we all get together for family
Once they’ve completed this activity, you can have your students write a similar passage about their family. They can even leave gaps in it to create their own cloze activity that their classmates will have to complete.
7. Animals and the Environment
You can continue to talk about animals and the environment with your students, no matter what their level is. Just keep advancing the vocabulary and grammar so they stay challenged.
This example cloze activity about wildlife and the environment is suitable for intermediate to advanced students:
Word bank: protect, species, pollution, habitat, endangered, ecosystem, forest, wildlife
The ______ is home to many different types of animals. It provides them
with food, water, and shelter. We need to take care of their ______ to
ensure their survival. Unfortunately, some animals are in danger of
becoming ______. This means they are at risk of disappearing forever. It’s
important to ______ these animals and their habitats. Human activities,
such as deforestation and ______, can harm animal ______ and their
homes. We need to work together to protect our planet and the amazing
______ that inhabit it!
Before or after your students complete this exercise, have them practice the pronunciation of these more challenging words.
8. Clothes and Accessories
Clothes vocabulary words are fun to teach (and learn) because you can use visual aids including the clothes you and your students are wearing and other items you bring into class.
To reinforce the vocabulary, you can mix in cloze activities like the example below:
Word Bank: shirt, pants, dress, shoes, hat, jacket, socks, skirt
I love shopping for new ______! My favorite item to wear is a colorful
______. It’s perfect for warm weather. When it gets colder, I like to wear a
cozy ______ and a warm pair of ______. For special occasions, I enjoy
wearing a pretty ______. It makes me feel elegant and fancy. To complete
my outfits, I always choose the right accessories. I wear comfortable
______ and matching ______. Oh, and let’s not forget about my favorite
accessory — a stylish ______. It protects me from the sun and adds a trendy
9. Sports and Equipment
Sports are a universally popular topic that can be used to engage the athletes and fans in your ESL class. You can use cloze activities to reinforce the names of sports, then advance on to equipment, action verbs and more!
Here’s an example cloze activity focusing on some popular sports:
Word Bank: net, tennis, basket, racket, soccer, basketball, goals, volleyball
______ is a popular sport played with a ball and two ______ on either side
of the field. It requires good footwork. Another exciting sport is ______. The
objective is to dribble and shoot the ball into the opponent’s ______. If you
enjoy individual or pair sports, you might like ______. It’s played with a
______, a small ball and a net. If you prefer a team sport, try ______. Teams
try to hit the ball over the ______ without letting it touch the ground.
10. Movies and Entertainment
Movies are a widely popular topic and one that provides many opportunities for engaging activities, such as showing movie scenes or trailers with interactive learning tools on a platform like FluentU.
If your students are interested in the making of movies, check out this example cloze activity:
Word Bank: cast, set, lines, entertainment, director, script, fame, plot, character, set
Yesterday I got to visit a movie ______ to see how a movie is made! First, I
got to meet the ______ and talk to them about their acting process. Then, I
met the ______ and asked him how he learned to guide the actors and
crew to make a great movie. He gave me a copy of the ______ so I could
follow along with the dialogue. The ______ was about a young boy who
dreamed of becoming a famous rockstar and his journey to ______. I was
impressed by how such as young actor was able to play the main ______
and memorize so many ______! Based on what I saw, I would say that the
______ of the movie is a mix between a comedy and a drama. This
experience really made me fall in love with the world of ______ and acting!
What Makes Cloze Activities Great for English Learners?
Cloze activities can be fun and informative while reinforcing vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure. 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 topics. 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 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 their practical uses. For example, a cloze activity about being at a restaurant will allow your students to use common restaurant vocabulary in a useful way. You can build on this by creating a restaurant atmosphere in your classroom and put to work what your students learned.
Cloze activities don’t have to be all about worksheets. You can use them as a catalyst for further comprehension of the topic through a variety of activities.
You can also turn them into an exciting game by placing the missing words on cards around the room, having students (carefully) race to find the right ones.
Put these cloze activities to the test and spark practical use in your classroom!
If you’re looking for similar activities you could use in your ESL lessons, take a look at our information gap activity ideas: