WHAT ARE INFORMATION GAP ACTIVITIES AND WHY SHOULD YOU USE THEM?

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In the English as a Foreign Language classroom, it is beneficial to replicate the outside world. In other words, the activities that are done inside the classroom should closely mirror what your learners will be doing outside the classroom. This is especially important in respect of purpose. It’s not a good idea to do activities just for the sake of doing an activity or passing time in your lesson. Even if you have a spare five or ten minutes to kill in class, rather do a revision activity than fit in an extra consolidation activity just because you need to take up some time. Instead, activities should have a purpose to ensure that your learners take maximum benefit from the activity.

This is where information gap activities come in.

What are information gap activities?

Information gap activities are activities which have an in-built purpose in their design. Simply put, in an information gap activity learners are given only certain information but not all of it; each learner in a group is given different information so the learners need to work together in order to complete the activity.

Here are a few examples of information gap activities:

  • A gapped newspaper activity. Take a newspaper article and remove important information; create two versions of the article with different gaps. Pair up the students and give each student in a pair a different version of the article. The students must now ask each other questions to fill in the gaps in their article.
  • Spot the difference. Each student in a pair is given a picture. The two pictures are similar but not identical. Together the students must describe the pictures to discover what the differences between the pictures are.
  • Role-play. Each student in a group is given a role card for a role-play which includes a problem-solving activity. However, they are not aware of the details of the other group members. Students conduct the role-play, and try to solve the problem.
  • Making an appointment. Students are given calendars with different appointments scheduled in. In pairs or as a group they must speak to each other in order to find appropriate times when they can make certain appointments with each other.

Why should you use information gap activities?

Information gap activities work because they require collaboration and co-operation between learners but also because they necessitate the use of language besides that focused on in the activity for completion. In other words, learners will need to make use of their entire repertoire of language as well as the target language.

If learners need to work together to complete a task, there is a need to communicate with each other. This allows the teacher to step back and allow the learners to take charge of the situation, which results in the practice of the language they already know as well as the consolidation of the new language they are learning.

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