Cloze Passages



Cloze passages, from the word closure, are short passages (250 words) from expository books commonly used in the teacher’s classroom that have certain words deleted (usually every fifth word) and replaced with a blank. Students are asked to read the cloze passages and fill in the missing words based on what they feel makes sense using context clues. If students are reading effectively and with adequate comprehension, usually they are able to accurately guess the missing words—or, at least, a word of the same part of speech. This helps the teacher know whether the student is able to use context clues when reading expository materials in the selected field of study, and whether he has a strong enough vocabulary to cope with the textbook being used. Following are the usual materials and procedures for constructing expository text cloze passages.



Materials needed include the textbook, a computer and word processing program, and means by which to copy the cloze passage for students.



Cloze tests cause students to use their background knowledge of a subject, their understanding of basic syntax (word order relationships), and semantics (word and sentence meaning) to guess what a missing word might be (Cooter & Flynt, 1996). They encourage teachers to first assess the student’s performance using cloze passages from narrative texts as a baseline indicator of general reading ability. This will help you to find out how well the student normally performs at reading narrative books, which are the main focus of reading in the elementary years. This approach also helps students to practice the cloze procedure before being asked to take on the different – and perhaps more difficult – expository cloze passages.


Teachers may choose cloze excerpts that include each of the expository text patterns found in the textbook(s) being used by students in their content classes. Results inform the teacher as to whether the text is likely to be at what is termed the independent level (easy to read), the instructional level (requiring some assistance from the teacher), or the frustration level (far too difficult for the student). General instructions for the construction and scoring of cloze tests using content area texts are as follows:


  1. Choose a passage of about 250 words from the class textbook. It is usually best to choose a passage at the beginning of a chapter or unit so that needed introductory information is included.


  1. Prepare the cloze passage, preferably using a computer word processing program. The first sentence should be typed exactly as it is written in the original text. Thereafter, beginning in the second sentence, delete one of the first five words and replace it with a blank, then repeat this procedure every fifth word. (The blanks need to of a uniform size to avoid giving unnecessary clues.) The process is complete when you have 50 blanks in the cloze passage. After the 50th blank, finish typing the sentence in which the last blank occurred. Then, type at least one more sentence with no deletions. Note: If using cloze with students reading at the K-3 level, it may be best to delete a word after every 10 words and to stick to narrative text.


  1. Have students read the passage all the way through once without attempting to fill in any of the blanks, then reread the passage and fill in the blanks to the best of their ability.


  1. To score cloze tests, use the one-half/one-third formula. Students who correctly complete one-half (25 of 50) or more of the blanks are considered to be at the independent reading level, at least with the passage selected. Students who complete fewer than one-third of the blanks correctly (17 of 50) will probably find the text too frustrating, or too difficult even with assistance. Those students falling somewhere between the one-third and one-half range will probably be able to succeed with the text if they receive some preparatory assistance from the teacher.


















Material for this handout was taken from:

Reutzel, D. R. & Cooter, R. B. (1999).  Balanced Reading Strategies and Practices: Assessing and Assisting Students with Special Needs. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill