Information Gap Activities for Elementary Learners

Shahnoza JaloliddinovaShahnoza Jaloliddinova O’rta Chirchiq, school № 43 shares her experience in teaching elementary students.


In my teaching I try to use several kinds of activities in order to get my students involved and interested. Information gap activity (the activity in which students have to exchange information as they are not given it in full) is one of them and my students prefer this activity over the other ones because while doing information gap activities students practice real communication. They ask questions and answer them in order to get information and this is what we do in real life. Only through communicating successfully can they get information to fulfill the task of the activity.
Information gap activities in my lessons are done by working in pairs. Both students are given tables or pictures with missing information. Each student has information which his/her partner does not have. What is missing in one student’s picture or table is present in the partner’s card. Students have to ask each other questions to find out the missing information.
Teachers can use such kind of activities with the students of different levels varying the complexity of information. For instance, to consolidate Past Simple Tense with my primary learners I have prepared the following table:

Past Simple Tense

There is a task for each partner to ask questions and answer them using Past Simple Tense.


Student A: What did Bob get on his birthday?
Student B: He got colourful balloons.

Student A: What did he drink?
Student B: Bob drank Fanta.

Student A: What did Jane eat on New Year’s Day?
Student B: She ate turkey.

Then students are instructed to take turns. Student B asks and Student A answers. It is essential that Students do not show their information to each other. It is also important to provide students with enough time as you may have differently paced pairs. This activity can be further extended if students are given empty tables and they are asked to complete them themselves. Then they can continue to exchange information. If you do so, you turn this activity into even more student centred exercise.
Information gap activities can be designed to all language skills. They may require students to use their reading, listening, speaking and sometimes writing skills to exchange information in order to complete the task. This activity can be a nice way to get students to practice new vocabulary and grammar. You should always remember to follow the rule that states that one student should have the information that the other student needs and only by following this you can guarantee the authenticity of communication.
Information gap activities usually work well because they encourage the learners to speak English meaningfully. Students are more motivated when they talk to each other in English. Of course, there are a lot of activities which invite learners to speak, but there may be some students who feel shy among people and while working in groups they may not speak. And information gap activities give them an opportunity to talk to their partner only. This creates personal security. You can observe students at work and once you are sure that they feel comfortable you can modify one-to-one into group-to-group information gap activity.
An interesting experiment may be to ask students to come up with the instructions for the information gap activity by themselves. In may take more time of the lesson however students will feel more responsibility once they start doing the activity.
There is one important issue that a teacher should consider when implementing information gap activities and this is how these activities can be assessed. If you decided to evaluate student during this type of activities you have to spend enough time to design proper assessment criteria. Do not forget to communicate these to your students so that they know how they will get their mark.
It seems to me that information gap activities can be considered an excellent opportunity for effective learning as they have all of the characteristics of a successful speaking activity highlighted by Ur (1996):

1. Learners talk a lot. As much as possible of the period of time allotted to the activity is in fact occupied by learner talk.

2. Participation is even. All get a chance to speak and contributions are fairly evenly distributed.

3. Motivation is high. Learners are eager to speak, because they are interested in the topic and have something new to say about it.

4. Language is of an acceptable level. Learners express themselves in utterances that are relevant, easily comprehensible to each other.

One more principle is important to follow and it states that the activities are effective when they vary. Do not use only pictures or only tables every time. You can use crosswords, maps, toys as well. It may seem difficult to create a variety of information gap activities, but to support communicative language teaching, one of the most important aspects of which is speaking, language teachers should seek the ways to motivate their students to speak English as much as possible.

Klippel, F. (1983) Keep Talking: Communicative fluency activities for language teaching.
Ur, P. (1996) A Course in Language Teaching: Practice and Theory.


Taken from ALT FL №1 2015

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