Cloze Procedures: How Sentence Completion Tasks Can Get Your Toddler To Talk

Cloze Procedures

Cloze Procedures

Cloze Procedures: How Sentence Completion Tasks Can Get Your Toddler to Talk

A penny for your _______.

Melts in your mouth, not in your _______.

Actions speak louder than _______.

Did you automatically complete the sentences above?

I’m guessing a majority of you did. If you were familiar with these phrases you couldn’t help yourself; your brain automatically filled in the blank.

If you struggled because you don't eat M&Ms or you’re unfamiliar with these idioms, here are the answers: 1. Thoughts 2. Hands 3. Words

What are Sentence Completion Tasks (or cloze statements or cloze procedures)?

I refer to these as sentence completion tasks but in the speech therapy circle, as well as other education professions, they are known as cloze statements or cloze procedures.

Cloze statements, cloze procedures, or sentence completion tasks are word retrieval tasks that require the participant (child, student, client, etc.) to fill in the blank. The adult says part of the sentence or phrase or verse but intentionally deletes a word, enticing the child to complete it with the correct one. I write about this technique in both of my books, My Toddler Talks: Strategies and Activities to Promote Your Child's Language Development and Learning to Read is a Ball.

What’s So Great About Sentence Completion Tasks (or cloze statements or cloze procedures?)?

It gives children the opportunity to participate in discussions, book reading, and songs. And, this ultimately increases self-confidence and motivation to speak.

How Can You Use Sentence Completion Tasks (or cloze statements or cloze procedures) to Increase Your Toddler’s Speech and Language?

Now, here’s this best part…sentence completion tasks are simple and fairly straightforward!

Say part of a FAMILIAR sentence, phrase, verse, or song but intentionally delete a word.

Entice your child to fill in the blank by pausing a few seconds and waiting expectantly (Please click the links to read more about those techniques) for a response.

For instance,


  • Row, row, row, your…

  • Twinkle, twinkle, little…

Or maybe your little one loves the show PAW Patrol? If that’s the case, sing the theme song (because 1. They like it 2. It’s familiar to them 3. They’ll want to complete the phrase!)

  • PAW Patrol, PAW Patrol, We’ll be there on the ________.”

Or maybe your tyke likes the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear ?

  • Brown bear, brown bear, What do you _____?

Sentence completion tasks during shared book reading is a fantastic way to increase your child’s language and participation. If you pick up a copy of Learning to Read is a Ball, you’ll see that I’ve underlined the last rhyming word in each verse to help remind you to perform this technique.



Although all children can benefit from sentence completion tasks, they are best suited for children who have stronger comprehension skills and have started speaking his or her first words.

This is because to complete the sentence the child has to dig through some memories, activate prior knowledge, and conjure up the word. This all helps to develop thinking skills. When children begin speaking their first words, they will more easily fill in the missing words.

If a little more support is needed, pair auditory input with visual or tactile input. For example, while reading “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you ______” , point to your eyes while pausing and waiting expectantly for your child to say see.

Additional prompting may include use of phonemic cues (fancy speech therapy term!)

This means you give the first sound or syllable of the target word. For example, while while reading “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you ______” you say the “s” in see.

I'll end this post by conjuring up memories of an old commercial...

Remember the once very popular mattress commercial:

"Call 1-800 M-A-T-T-R-E - S and leave off the last S for savings?"

Well, in this case, leave off the last word of a FAMILIAR rhyme, song, verse, or routine and entice your child to complete it!

As always, I hope this post was helpful!

Need some more language development tips? Maybe you'll be interested in these:

7 Ways to Promote Communication Without Frustration

7 Ways to Get Your Toddler to Communicate

The Power of Repetition

Set it Up

Give Choices

How to Ask Questions

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