Primary English Tips | Cloze Passage: 3 Things to do when you are Stuck

It has been a really busy weekend as we celebrated Baby Paul's first birthday! A year had flown by so quickly and the little man is already one (: As I reflected, I am thankful to God for our little man and also how He paved the way for us to spend time with the baby while still allowing me to do what I love. As Paul enters toddlerhood, I think I will need to pray hard for wisdom to take care of him and grow him while I continue to find opportunities to teach. I am excited to share today's tip, let's begin!

Cloze Passage: Help, I am Stuck!

50 minutes left. You begin on the cloze passage. You read through it once. Now, you begin doing the questions. Suddenly, you are stuck. What should you do?

This is a familiar scenario and many children end up making irrelevant, wild guesses out of desperation. Even under such circumstances, I am sure we would like to have a chance of getting the answer right and a reasonable guess will increase the possibility. What are some steps that you can take to troubleshoot and come up with a probable answer? 

1. Two is better than one

If you have a possible answer in mind, do not dismiss it but use a pencil to jot it above the blank first. In fact, recently, I started a new strategy of having my kids to write down two possible answers for each blank so that they will be prompted to think harder and can choose a better answer at the end. 

Whether you have two answers jotted down or your mind is still a blank, read on to find out how to come up with a reasonable answer.

2. Which type of word does this blank need?

Simply put, we are talking about the parts of speech or the different word classes here. Unfortunately, I realised that a lot of children are unaware of the different word classes present. To me, it is extremely important as knowing the word classes is not only helpful for comprehension cloze, it is important in answering some open-ended comprehension questions too. (e.g. Write down two words that were used to describe the peacock. --> I know I should zoom in on the adjectives.) 

Nouns - Animals, people, places and things
Verbs - main verbs (actions e.g. kicked) or helping verbs (e.g. is, had, do, will, might) In fact, any                       word that has tenses is actually a verb!
Adjectives - describing words for NOUNS (beautiful, greedy, excruciating)
Adverbs - describing words for VERBS (happily, playfully)
Pronouns - substitute for nouns (e.g. she, I, hers, these, that)
Preposition - words that tell position(under, along), time (On Monday, closes at ten o'clock), and                       the way which something was done (e.g. without looking, went by bus)
Conjunctions - connecting words (e.g. and, because, although)
Determiners - words that introduce a noun (e.g. the, an, many ducks, two)

Thinking about the word class may seem tedious as doing cloze passages seems to be just "common sense" to a lot of people. However, my children, especially the weaker ones in this section, find this to be a useful strategy in helping them find a probable answer for questions that they are stuck at.

Although there are so many word classes, I usually have my children ask themselves whether a blank needs a noun (or thing), verb (or actions) or an adjective (or description) first as these three are the most commonly required words. If it is not any of these three categories, start considering other possibilities. Help your children to think through by practising asking questions:

Do I need a thing or action? (noun or verb)
Is it describing a noun or a verb? (adjectives or adverbs)
Is it talking about the number of something? (determiners)
Is it a substitute for a noun? (pronoun)
Is it a grammatical phrase about position, time or manner? (preposition)
Do I need to connect ideas or events? (conjunctions)

3. Contextual clues: What do the surrounding words tell me?

Another thing that should be done if you are stuck, is to look for clues in the surrounding words (contextual clues). Other than subject-verb agreement keywords for nouns or verbs (e.g. Timmy's stomach was still growling although he already had lunch.), there are a few other kinds of clues to search for when you have no idea what the blank requires. 

  • synonyms (Words with similar meanings) 
    If a point is being emphasized, repeated or elaborated, it is likely that a synonym is needed. Take note that it is unlikely the blank will call for the exact same word within the same sentence.
    e.g. The shelves are neat and _________ after Mary cleaned them. (tidy)
          In the desert, the explorers lived without food for days but thankfully, they managed to      
          ___________ with the water they had brought along. (survive) 
  • compare & contrast clues
    These clues are fun to spot and the answers are usually straightforward once you found the clues. Look out for words that signal whether two events are the same or different. (However, but, while, similarly)
    e.g. All the girls in the school are dressed in white while the __________ are dressed in yellow. (boys)
          In recent years, the crime rate has been decreasing. However, the rate of traffic accident has       ____________. (increased/ risen)
  • cause and effect clue
    It is important for us to read the entire passage and sentence to understand meaning in totality, especially with this type of questions. You will need to identify the cause or effect in order to have an idea of what the other is. 
    e.g. Due to the heavy rain, many people were _____________ for work that morning. (late)
           He was feeling very awake that night as he had drunk too ______________ coffee in the            day. (much)

There are two more types of clues that should be taken note of for anyone attempting a cloze passage. However, they may not be very helpful if you are already stuck. The reason is that the clue types below definitely require readers to have knowledge of how the words associate with each other. Extensive reading and practice will definitely help you to pick out these clues and figure out the right answers!

  • grammar clues
    These will include phrasal verbs clues (put out a fire, put away his books) and also prepositions to indicate which word is suitable (refrain from shouting and not avoid from shouting). 
  • figurative/idiomatic expressions
    For figurative or idiomatic expressions, there will usually be only one answer as the expression cannot be changed. 
    e.g. There is no point crying over spilt _____________ now. You need to learn from your        
          mistake and move on. (milk. It cannot be any other beverage, unfortunately.)

By this time, you should have a clearer idea of which of the two possible words to choose. If you had been stuck, I hope you will at least have a reasonable and possible answer to fill in. Remember never to leave a blank unfilled as you will be killing all possibilities of a right answer. 

Please feel free to share with any other tips that you have or comment if you find this article useful!