Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Gap-fill exercises - a complete waste of time

You will find on my site a few gap-fill exercises that I made using borrowed scripts from elsewhere on the net. I have to be honest and say that the only reason I put them up was to entice people to my site. People who had typed "exercices anglais" or something like that into Google. Exercises you want, so exercises you'll get. What do I think about the pedagogical value of such exercises? Not much. The only reason I can think of why they might be useful is perhaps for people who need to take an exam that involves gap-fills, drag and drop, definition matching and the like.
You would get more benefit from reading the ingredients on your cereal box in English at breakfast time. I have used this technique to learn the words for "wheat", "corn", "sugar" etc in Portugese, Greek and Spanish.
I had the misfortune last year to get the job of writing these useless exercises for the ministry of education. And I am ashamed of the results. I admit that I now put "creation of on-line learning materials" on my CV, but at the same time I am happy that the site is password protected, so a potential employer can't see what a pile of crap they are.
The worst are exercises that make you find the correct definition of a given word. These exercises usually take words that no foreign learner of English is likely to know, and probably will never have need for anyway. Why not just look them up in a dictionary? When you think you have a pretty good of idea of the meaning, write ten different sentences using the new word and ask an English-speaking friend if they sound correct.

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