The cloze procedure is an informal tool for assessing studentsí comprehension. Teachers use the cloze procedure to gather information about readersí abilities to deal with the content and structure of texts they are reading. Teachers construct a cloze passage by taking an excerpt from a book-a story, an informational book, or a content-area textbook-that students have read and deleting roughly every fifth word in the passage. The deleted words are replaced with blanks. Then students read the passage and add the missing words. Students use their knowledge of syntax (the order of words in English) and semantic (the meaning of words within the sentences) to successfully predict the missing words in the text passage. Only the exact word is considered the correct answer. The following activity was devised by a fourth-grade teacher to assess studentsí understanding during a unit on astronomy. The three paragraphs were taken from a class book, and each was written by a different student.
The nine planets travel around the sun. The _____ is a planet that travels around the sun once a year. The planets between the sun and the Earth are called the _____ planets and the others are the _____ planets. The planets are Mercury, _____, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, _____, Uranus, _____, and Pluto. The sun, the planets, and their _____ make up the _____ system.
Stars are giant shining balls of hot _____. The _____ are dark, and we can only _____ them because they reflect the _____ of the sun. Planets and starts look almost the same at night, but planets do not _____. Starts stay in the same place in the _____, but planets _____ around.
Jupiter is the _____ planet in the solar system. It is the _____ planet from Earth. Astronomers can see a giant _____ spot on the clouds. Maybe it is sort of like a hurricane. Believe it or not, Jupiter has both _____ and _____. It is very _____ on Jupiter, but there could be life there.
The steps in the cloze procedure are:
Select a passage and retype it. Teachers select an excerpt from a story, content-area textbook, or informational book for the cloze activity. Then they retype they text. The first sentence is typed exactly as it appears in the original text. Beginning with the second sentence, one of the first five words is deleted and replaced with a blank. Then every fifth word in the remainder of the passage is deleted and replaced with a blank. Teachers often vary the cloze procedure and delete specific content words rather than every fifth word. Character names and words related to key events in the story might be omitted. For passages from informational books, teachers often delete key terms.
Complete the cloze activity. Students read the entire text silently, and then they reread the text and predict or "guess" the word that goes in each blank. Students write the words in the blanks.
Score the studentsí work. Teachers award one point each time the missing word is correctly identified. The percentage of correct answers is determined by dividing the number of points by the number of blanks. Compare the percentage of correct word replacement with this scale:
61% or more correct: independent level
41-60% correct: instructional level
less than 40% correct: frustration level
The cloze procedure can also be used to determine whether or not an unfamiliar trade book or text book is appropriate to use for classroom instruction. Teachers prepare a cloze passage and have all students or a random sample of students follow the procedure identified above. Then teachers score studentsí responses and use one-third to one-half formula to determine the textís appropriateness for their students. If students correctly predict more than 50% of the deleted words, the passage is easy reading. If they predict less than 30% of the missing words, the passage is too difficult for classroom instruction. The instructional range is 30-50% correct predictions (Reutzel & Cooter, 1996). The percentages are different from those in the scale because students are reading an unfamiliar passage instead of a familiar one.