Teachers are often searching for activities to make their classroom more interactive; language teachers in particular are also looking for activities that promote target language use. Info Gap activities are excellent activities as they force the students to ask each other questions; these activities help make the language classroom experience more meaningful and authentic. This explains in more detail what Info Gap activities are and why they are useful; it will also give some examples of Info Gap activities for any language classroom.
What is a Gap activity?
A Gap activity takes place between students, not between a student and a teacher, though a teacher can certainly demonstrate the activity. The two students will be asking each other questions to which they don’t know the answer; these questions are called referential questions. The goal of the activity is for the students to discover certain information, whether about the other person or related to a specific activity.
What are referential and display questions?
A referential question is a question to which the person asking does not know the answer. For example, you might ask a new student:
“Where are you from?” or “What is your name?”
The teacher does not know the answer to these questions; the purpose of asking these questions is to discover information, similar to the Info Gap activities.
A display question is a question to which the person asking does know the answer. For example, you might ask a student:
“What color is my sweater” or “Do I have long or short hair?
The teacher clearly knows the answer to these questions; the purpose of asking is to promote student speaking, or to prompt students to remember certain information (whether it be vocabulary, grammar, etc.)
Tips for Gap Activities:
Here are our top tips for information gap activities.
Listen carefully to the instructions.
Ask your teacher to repeat if you don’t understand exactly what you have to do.
Look at your partner and check that he/she understands you when you speak.
Be ready to repeat or explain things if he/she doesn’t understand you.
Listen to your partner’s answers carefully and show interest in what your partner says.
Take turns with your partner.
Talk a lot more than your partner.
Ignore what your partner says.
Worry if you and your partner have different levels of English.
Look at your partner’s worksheet and copy the answers!
Importance of gap activities:
Gap activities are useful because they are very meaningful; all students are involved in the process equally and they are all moving towards a specific purpose. Each student has the task of finding out certain information, and therefore must find a way in which to ask for this information. Motivation is usually quite high in these activities. These activities help move the students from working in a more structured environment into a more communicative environment; they are hopefully using lots of the target language, and in the process discovering where they have gaps. Knowing where these gaps are gives them a direction in which to improve.
Information gap activities are useful for various reasons. They provide an opportunity for extended speaking practice, they represent real communication, motivation can be high, and they require sub-skills such as clarifying meaning and re-phrasing. Typical types of information gap activities you might find include; describe and draw spot the difference, jigsaw readings and listenings and split dictations.
Examples of Info Gap activities:
20 questions: Students work in pairs or small groups. One student chooses an object or person and keeps it a secret. The other students must ask yes or no questions to determine what that object/person is. The maximum number of questions is 20.
Guess the card: Students work in partners. This is similar to 20 questions only the students already have the object chosen for them. One student holds a card so that their partner can’t see. The partner must then ask yes or no questions to determine what is on the card. Often teachers structure this activity to fit with the theme of a particular unit.
Find your partner: Whole class participates. Students are each given a card with an image on it; there are two of each image. Students must circulate and try to find the person with the same image by asking yes or no questions. The students may not ask “Do you have an elephant” if their image is, for example, an elephant. They must ask more descriptive questions, for example “Does your thing have 4 legs?” or “Does your thing live in the jungle?”
Words on back: Students work in large groups or as a whole class. Each student has a word attached to his or her back; the students must then circulate asking each other yes or no questions to determine what word is on their back.
Same different: Students work in pairs. Each has a different picture that should not be shown to their partner. The students take turns asking each other yes or no questions to find out how the pictures are different.
Student A: Look at the information about films at the local cinema. Listen to your partner’s questions and use the information to answer them.
Student B: Look at the information about films at the local cinema and ask your partner questions to find out more about the films.
Students A and B: Look at your picture. Describe it to your partner. Listen to your partner talking about his/her picture. Find five differences between the pictures.
Look at the information on your role card and talk to your partner. Find a solution to the problem.
Student A: You are a guest staying at a hotel. The hotel website says it is a luxury hotel, but in your room the sheets and towels are dirty, the bathroom is too small, the street outside is very noisy and ... (you decide two more problems). You want to change to a better room and you want a discount. Talk to the receptionist and solve the problem.
Student B: You are a hotel receptionist. There is a guest staying at the hotel who complains about everything, even when there isn’t a problem. You can move a guest to a different room, but you can’t change the price of a room. Talk to the guest and solve the problem.