The blank dialogue is a very “natural” teaching approach. Something intuitive about it. I used it in my early days of teaching – just pausing a dialogue on cassette tape and asking students to respond. You had to get skilled with using those big buttons! That is what being a teckkie used to entail!

Most blank dialogues are receptive – students listen and fill in. Then repeat the lines and try to do it “without looking”. That’s okay – Molinsky and Bliss would be in bliss – however, nowadays with video and technology, I believe we can do more.

Blank dialogues are highly engaging to students because they do some important things:

1. They embrace a powerful principle of teaching – anticipation. Students don’t know what will be coming and must respond. So it is very engaging. Also, it teaches (in a controlled fashion) how to tolerate the “ambiguity” of language.

2. They recycle language and are repetitive. The form is controlled and students just substitute.

3. They allow production of language by students in a controlled fashion. Students can produce language and self correct themselves immediately against a model. Swain and Long are two researchers who stress the importance (and value) of production for language acquisition.

4. Students can personalize language. They utter the words, they can change them about, say them differently. Even respond differently than the original model.

Practical examples.

Let me show you clearly, how I envision the video blank dialogue.

1. Here is a standard dialogue for language learning. The teacher plays. The students repeat. The teacher asks questions. blablabla…. Standard and non anticipatory.


2. Here is the video as a blank dialogue. Much more engaging. The teacher can even get this in Karaoke and slow the dialogue ever so slightly and make it easier for the students. I even made a book using 20 dialogues with cloze scripts.


You can even go one step further and get students to record the lines and produce their own video! This is the direction I want EnglishCentral to go. Where the actual recording is interactive and there is simulated communication (however controlled). This I believe would revolutionalize the now a bit tired and too true blank dialogue.

What do you think ?

Here’s my own recording! I just used NCH’s Wavepad to “silence” selected parts of the audio. Then put that into Audacity and recorded over the track. Finally, used the karaoke editor to put it all together (Studio version allows you to produce a video). Get all this on the Software for Education page I put together.