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ESOL Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Disappearing definition and vanishing cloze

Speaking Strategy: Disappearing definition and Vanishing cloze

ESOL Principles:

Most strategies can be used to support all seven of the ESOL principles dependent upon how the teacher decides to use the strategy within their teaching and learning planning cycle. This strategy is usually used to support:

Principle 3: Maintain and make explicit the same learning outcomes for all the learners. How can I make the lesson comprehensible to all students? How can I plan the learning tasks so that all the students are actively involved? Do my students understand the learning outcomes?

Principle 4: Begin with context embedded tasks which make the abstract concrete. How can I put these concepts into a concrete context?

Principle 5: Provide multiple opportunities for authentic language use with a focus on students using academic language. Is the language focus on key language? Do I make sure the students have many opportunities to notice and use new language?


These strategies are useful for noticing correct grammar and for modelling texts. They are best used with key definitions or key ideas that are essential to the unit of work being studied.

Disappearing definition

Write a definition on the white board. The teacher reads the definition to the students. The students chorus the definition back. The teacher rubs out every seventh word (or random words) and a student reads out the text including the missing word/s. The teacher rubs out more words and a student reads out the entire text. The teacher continues rubbing out until there is no text on the board. The students then write the definition into their books from memory.


  • Always use an important piece of text or definition for this activity.
  • The classroom context will determine how the teacher chooses the students who are to read. Even if the teacher chooses students systematically around the classroom, the students will all be focused with their answer ready.

Vanishing cloze

  • Construct a text (3-4 sentences), based upon what you are currently studying, on the board. The text must be grammatically correct and use known vocabulary correctly.
  • Students read the whole text aloud from the board and then you rub out a word/s.
  • The students read again and say the missing words.
  • Rub out some more words and have the students read and supply the missing words.
  • Continue in this way until the whole text has been rubbed out and the students can recite it or until they are unable to supply any more words.

video icon Primary level: Making Language and Learning Work DVD 3 – Visual Arts, Year 5/6.

Teaching and learning sequence planning examples:

Primary level:

Secondary level:

Some possible Teacher Inquiry questions:

  • What language learning outcomes could I reinforce during the disappearing definition?
  • How might this task support oral language development?
  • Does my selected text model the language features that I want my students to learn?
  • What language difficulties are my students demonstrating while undertaking this task? How will I scaffold them to succeed, or what do I need to teach next?


Useful website:

Published on: 15 Jul 2012