(I thought it might be helpful to readers and myself if I described some of my favorite activities from time to time. See all my ESL Activity Corner posts here.)
Information Gap is a classic type of flexible communicative activity. It’s a close cousin of the Jigsaw Reading, in which students provide each other with information.
The teacher does not have the answers. Instead, the students are divided into two groups that each have answers for the other. The students communicate to give and receive the information they need.
Here is a simple information gap activity example. Each student is given a slip of paper with one of these sentences.
Group A: Ann is traveling to Brazil on a _______. It leaves at 3:10 Tuesday afternoon.
Group B: Ann is traveling to Brazil on a boat. It leaves at _______ Tuesday afternoon.
Students partner up across groups. They are not supposed to look at each other’s papers.
Group A would ask a question to fill in their blank. For example, “How is Ann getting to Brazil?” Group B would do the same, asking something like, “What time is the boat departing?”
- Decide what you want your students to practice. See below for some suggestions.
- Choose or create your materials. Note that materials can be reading passages, lists, maps, nutrition labels, and so on. The more material, the longer the activity can be.
- Prepare the information for Group A and Group B. The more blanks, the more time the students will need. This can be as low-tech as using white-out. It’s very handy to number each blank. Different colored paper can also be handy to prevent confusion.
- In class, prepare students for the content and language to be used in the information gap task.
- Explain the activity: each group is missing some information and they need to talk to each other to fill in the blanks. They will work with a partner who is missing different information.
- Be sure to emphasize on what the purpose is. For example, if you primarily want them to practice forming and asking questions, be clear about this so they don’t gloss over their helping verbs and intonation.
- Form partnerships however you see fit. Make sure each partnership has one student with the Group A paper, and the other has the Group B paper.
- As the students begin, circulate to observe, provide help, etc.
- Check answers. This can be done as a class, in pairs of partnerships, with all the Group As and all the Group Bs… Depending on your objectives, you might also choose to have students model how they asked for the information.
- reading any level of informational text in any subject
- in academic writing class, could be sample paragraphs or essays
- conversation/intonation practice – the content is just a vehicle for communicating verbally
- spelling out loud – content just a vehicle for spelling words out loud
- skimming and scanning
- map reading and/or prepositions of place
- forming questions
- vocabulary practice
- introducing the syllabus or other “boring” policy information
- Regular grammar exercises – the students check each other’s work. Group A does the odds and Group B does the evens. Each group is provided with the answer key for the other group. I recommend checking answers verbally – so much of our grammar practice skews toward written instead of spoken!
- Multilevel classes – Group A could be the lower level and Group B be the higher level. Group B would have more blanks. Group A could practice spelling them out loud if they didn’t know the word.
- Metacognition – students guess the information in the blank first. (You’ll want to at least triple-space these ones.) This could be especially useful with content in an ESP class.
- Editing practice – create an info-gap of level-appropriate writing that needed editing, but leave a gap instead. Students can write in their answer. You can then provide the original and Ss can discuss their different answers and compare them to the original. (You might want to provide suggested answers as well, especially at lower levels.)
This is a super flexible type of activity – I hope you’ll give it a try!