English - Cloze Sentences and Similes
Linked in heavily with the spelling version of cloze procedure, this is all about vocabulary and comprehension as well as dealing with multiple options and finding a 'best fit' rather than dealing with each question at a time. In the cloze spelling there had to be one answer and it was incontrovertible; in the cloze sentence test there will be one 'best-fit' answer that will work and every other version will be considered incorrect, as there is no option of explaining your answers and why you have chosen them to an examiner! It's because of this that your child must think very carefully when answering them. Let's look at an example:
Look at the following passage and choose which of the words that follow should go in the gaps. You must use each word only once.
When the ______ is ______, the ______ must watch it very carefully to ensure it gets ______ off the middle of the ______.
The capitalised words will all fit in the sentence and it is necessary to think about what is going on before attempting to fit in the first word. Hopefully there will be a clear narrative which your child can latch on to before reading the 'missing words' but I have deliberately made it a bit tricky to do so as you are bound to get questions like this.
The capitalised words all point to a game of cricket. While it won't be expected that your child would know the rules of cricket, it certainly is expected that they will know the very basics of such a common activity and would be able to work out what makes sense and what does not.
The key here is not to deal with one word at a time but get an overview and pick off the words which HAVE to be in a particular place. For example, the first two words could be 'ball' and 'bowled' or 'ball' and 'hit' or 'batsman' and 'bowled' and so on; you have to be more structured in your approach.
The third word is the key for me here. It is followed by 'must watch' so it suggests that this word must be a noun, and one which has the ability to watch. The only option is therefore 'batsman'. With that word in place, the other nouns ('bat' and 'ball') must logically fit in as the first and last spaces in an order that needs to be checked. The verbs ('hit' and 'bowled') need to be in the second and fourth spaces to make sense, although the order needs to be checked.
At this point, it could be worth writing possible words in gaps and seeing what seems to work but the timing will be an issue so working in your head is much better. 'When the ball is hit, the batsman must watch it very carefully to ensure it gets bowled off the middle of the bat' makes no sense, regardless of how much you know of cricket. As ever, get your child to visualise what the sentence is showing and see whether it makes sense. Switching the nouns around would still give a nonsensical image so the correct option must be 'When the ball is bowled, the batsman must watch it very carefully to ensure it gets hit off the middle of the bat'.
An alternative presentation of the cloze exercise is the multiple choice format.
Instead of a bank of words which you need to go through carefully and try to arrange in a manner that makes sense, you are presented with a passage and a series of blanks in the same way, but you are given an option of one correct and three or four incorrect words to fill each blank. This format means that there is less for your child to deal with at a time as they have less of a worry about juggling twenty words to make sense when they are potentially going to do so in several ways; however, it does mean that the examiners can increase the difficulty level of the vocabulary as it will be possible to maintain the sense of a story regardless of the wrong answers that may have been given earlier on. let's explore an example:
Read the following passage and, where there is a number, chose the correct word from the list which follows:
Lisa walked into the _(1)_ building and felt a sudden _(2)_ as the door closed behind her. 'The wind must have blown it shut,' she _(3)_ to _(4)_ herself.
The answers are generally a little more high-level than the first example. They are at a suitable level so if your child is struggling, make sure they are reading at an appropriate level and are asking if they don't know words they encounter.
The first gap seems to be asking for an adjective (describing word). 'Darkened' is a verb as it refers to something that has happened. It cannot be the answer. The other three are all reasonable as they are adjectives. At this point you need to picture the scene and decide what is a fair description of a building. Having read on a bit, you understand it is a rather scary experience so we are looking for a word which suggests the building is a bit intimidating. While 'grave' is a very negative word, it doesn't get used to describe buildings and 'dubious' is similarly not likely to describe a place but 'intimidating' can do. It has to be the right word.
Using the same ideas, word two must be a noun as 'sudden' describes something. That only leaves 'thought' and 'tremor' and as you don't feel a thought, it can only be 'tremor'.
The third word has to be a verb but each word is a verb so that doesn't help. In order to get it right, read the whole sentence and use the possible words in answer four as well. This means 'called' and 'thought' are the most likely words and common sense suggests she wouldn't call out such a thing when entering a strange building on her own. If this word is 'thought', the final one can only be 'reassure'.
The danger in these types of passages is that the words offered are often 'of a similar meaning' but the wary child will be able to pick out the correct form of the word (noun, adverb etc.) and not go for the first word that fits with a theme or tone in the passage.
Similes are the phrases in English where we liken one thing to another. A similar concept is the metaphor, whereby a simile is made stronger by saying that one thing IS another. For example, a simile could be 'the man was as timid as a mouse' or 'she ran like a gazelle' whereas a metaphor could be 'he was a lion in battle'.
The sorts of questions that could be asked in this section are limited. Therefore it isn't a section that you will come across in lots of papers but I've seen it on occasion so it's worth looking at. Essentially the questions are about vocabulary and familiarity with the English language. As ever, reading at a high level will aid your child as much as anything here but there are some hints that may assist him or her.
In the following examples, underline the correct word that completes the simile in a recognised way:
- As dark as (the wall, the knight, black, night)
- As strong as (an ox, coffee, a tiger, metal)
The trick here, assuming that your child doesn't get the correct answer straight away, is to pick out the ones which it CANNOT be. If they are able to work out the reason that certain 'red herring' words have been put in, they can start to pick out the correct words. In question 1, the fact that 'knight' and 'night' are both there should make your child assume one must be correct. The alternate spelling suggests they are trying to catch out the unwary - the false one usually comes first in a list to trick people who are rushing. 'Knight' would make little sense but there may be a Batman reference here! Anyone who stops to think will realise 'night' is a far more realistic option.
Question 2 is tough if you have never heard the expression 'as strong as an ox'. Coffee may be strong, a tiger is strong and metal can be strong. Is there an easy way to do this? Probably not. Read more, listen to the words native English speakers use, complete the tests on this site and if you're concerned, invest in an old-fashioned English book like the outstanding 'First Aid in English' (MacIvor), which is the secret of many a good teacher who has become a self-taught grammar expert having had little input in school!