A gapfill activity is a text based activity where certain items have been omitted and a space left, possibly with a prompt provided, as in the following gap fill focusing on irregular past verb forms :
Last Thursday I --------- (go) to Barcelona on business. I ---------- (leave) home at 7.30 and ----------- (drive) to Heathrow airport. etc etc
Alternatively, instead of using prompts in brackets, the missing words can be given in a box before or after the gapped text, and the students choose the one they consider to be most appropriate.
Used in this way, it is a controlled practice activity for, or test of, items that students already know. However, gapfills can be used with listening or reading text as a "noticing" activity. The teacher gaps from the transcript or text the items that she wants the students to "notice" and then, after they have finished working on comprehension, gives it out. They try to complete it from memory and then listen again, or look back at the original reading text to see if they are correct. The teacher can then focus on the target items, explaining as necessary. Here's an example of a listening text used to focus on intensification of verbs and adjectives by adverbs. (The missing words are really / terribly / absolutely but learners might also come up with acceptable alternatives which could also be focused on):
I -------- splashed out on winter clothes this year - I was ---------- extravagant. I saw this ---------- gorgeous coat in the shop and I just couldn't resist. etc etc
Not to be confused with cloze activities.
Woodward, T. Planning Lessons and Courses, Cambridge