Blank out key words from an audio script

Tip: It’s a great idea to work with the audio script after doing a coursebook listening, and you can do this as a revision activity in the next class if you want. There are many ways to work with audio scripts, and one of the best known is to blank out words and then have the students try to remember them. There are some task design issues to consider the next time you do this.

Background

As a revision activity you may already have thought to take a photocopy of a coursebook audio script, blank out certain words or phrases using correction fluid, and then re-photocopy as a student worksheet. That’s fine. But there are some elements of task design that you need to consider:

1 Are you going to blank out content words, or grammar words, or key words from functional phrases? For example, if the audio was a telephone call between two people arranging a meeting you could blank out a) words related to arrangements and meetings, or b) prepositions, or c) key words from telephone phrases. I suggest not mixing these. Prepare more than one worksheet if needs be.

2 Are you going to blank out single words, or short phrases? If the latter, I suggest writing in the margin how many words are missing.

3  Are you going to take open feedback at the end or just give the answers?  I suggest the former: go through the gaps in turn and ask what students have written in the gaps. Their suggestions may be fine, although not the original words used. That’s quite okay for language activation purposes and allows you to check/reformulate their ideas.

4 At the end, will you simply give the answers from the front of the class, or can you build a final prompt into the exercise? Personally, when I prepare a worksheet like this I write all the missing words randomly at the bottom of the page and then fold this part of the sheet under when I hand out the photocopies. At the beginning I don’t tell the students what is there – just that they shouldn’t look. Then right at the end they can turn up the folded part, see the answers, and do the exercise as a gapfill.

5 If you think at the design stage that empty gaps will be too challenging for the students, then write in the first letters of the missing words after the correction fluid has dried. Be aware that this will turn the exercise into a straightforward memory game, rather than the more open-ended activity suggested in #3 above.