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The Information Gap as a Guide in Designing ESL Teaching Activities

This information has been abstracted from Teaching Adults: An ESL Resource Book, produced by New Readers Press, Syracuse, New York. Information gap activities require students to use their English language skills to share information in order to complete a taska true communicative task. The students cannot complete the task with the information they have at the beginning of the activity. During the activity, the students interact to exchange information for a real purposewhich is exactly the way people use language in real life. The students are not merely parroting phrases and sentences that the tutor says, nor are they asking questions to which they already know the answers. (Maria, ask Wong what his name is and if he is studying English.) Instead, the students are asking their own questions, giving commands, and giving and receiving information that is new to them. An information gap activity is always used as a follow-up or practice activity, and should not be used to introduce new material. Before beginning the activity, be sure that you have already introduced the vocabulary or grammatical structures that the students will encounter. Try to build some kind of information gap into every review and reinforcement you do. The activities below require students to use listening, speaking, reading, and writing to fill information gaps. Some information gap activities may require only listening and speaking. The following three ESL activities contain information gaps. Note the sharing of information that is necessary to complete the tasks.

Information Gap: Supermarket Ad


Purpose To provide an opportunity for students to practice using vocabulary related to grocery shopping How 1. Collect supermarket ads that advertise a variety of different food products. You will need two copies of each ad. (If you dont have a second copy, you can make a photocopy.)

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2. Make two copies of a shopping list with two columns. At the top of the first column, write the heading Item. At the top of the second column, write the heading Price. In the first column write the names of eight foods that are listed in the ad. Leave the price column blank. Example: Item orange juice bread apples chicken hot dogs tomatoes rice carrots Price

1. On one copy of the ad, use a marker to black out the price of four items that are on the shopping list. On the second copy of the ad, black out the prices of the other four items that are on the shopping list. 2. Prepare one set of materials (two copies of an ad with different sets of prices blacked out and two copies of the related shopping list) for each pair of students. Use a different ad for each pair. The ads should all contain some of the same food items, however. 3. Give the set of materials to each pair of students. Ask each person to take one copy of the ad but not to show it to his or her partner. 4. Ask each student to find in the ad the foods that appear in the shopping list. They should then fill in the shopping list with as many prices as possible. Explain that they need to include any special information related to the price. Examples: whether the orange juice price is for a 6- or 12-ounce can, whether the carrot price is for one pound or three pounds. 5. Explain that the students will note be able to fill in all the prices by themselves. Tell them that they must ask their partner questions in order to fill in the remaining prices. (They cannot simply look at each others ad.) The partner should give the price and any additional information necessary. Example: 6. How much is the chicken? 7. The chicken is two dollars and nineteen cents a pound. 8. Give each pair four minutes to complete the activity. 9. When the students have filled in all the prices on their shopping lists, select one person to read his or her shopping list aloud to the group (items and prices). Ask the other pairs to listen to see if they have any of the same items on their shopping lists.
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10. Ask pairs who had the same items to tell the group whether their prices were the same or different. Suggestions Ask each student to go to his or her local supermarket, find the foods on the shopping lists they used in this activity, and compare the prices charged by the market to the prices written on the shopping list. Or work with the group to create an entirely new shopping list. Ask each student to copy this new list, take it to a local market, and write down how much the items cost there. They can then compare their findings at the next class. Use the activity to review food categories. For example, ask each student to write the word fruits on a sheet of paper and then list all the fruits named in the ad.

Information Gap: Johari Windows


Purpose To enable students to use listening, speaking, reading, and writing to find out how the students are alike and different How Divide the group into pairs. Designate one person in each pair as A and the other as B. Create a Johari Window like the following on an 8-1/2 x 11 piece of paper. Make one copy for each pair. Both A and B Only A

Only B

Neither A nor B

Tell the partners they must work together to complete the grid. Give them these instructions: o In the top left-hand box write three things you can both do. o In the top right-hand box write three things A can do but B cannot do. o In the bottom left-hand box write three things that B can do but A cannot do. o In the bottom right-hand box write three things neither of you can do.

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Tell the students how much time they will have for completing this activity. The amount of time you specify can vary according to the students skill level. When they finish, write the following on the board: I was surprised to learn that.

Call on a few of the students to complete this sentence. Ask for volunteers to tell the rest of the class what they learned about their partners.

Suggestions In a one-to-one situation, include yourself in the activity. You and the student will work together to complete the grid. If the partners are still continuing their discussion after the allotted time, let the activity run longereven if they have completed their chart. This activity is an effective conversation starter that often results in lively, animated discussions about the things that students can and cannot do. Vary the activity by using different sentence beginnings: I have/dont have. I like/dont like. I am/am not. I have/have never.

Adapted from Richard and Marjorie Baudains, Alternatives: Games, Exercises and Conversations for the Language Classroom, c 1990 by Longman Group Ltd. Used by permission.

11-04.Info Gap as Guide FS

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