Exercises related to personality are a great way of teaching young ESL students about a range of language and structure topics. For beginners, a personality-based lesson opens up the opportunity to discuss basic adjectives. For more advanced students, you can work on collocations and expressions related to personality. Intermediate students can practice comparatives and superlatives, talking about the personalities of various people in relative terms.
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Basic Vocabulary: Adjectives
For a beginning ESL class, teach your students basic vocabulary to describe personality. For example, you can give students examples of positive personality words by pointing to individual pupils and indicating "David is nice," "Barbara is generous" or "Maria is funny." Pay attention to common sources of confusion, such as the different between "fun" and "funny" or, for native speakers of Romance languages, the difference between "sensitive" and "sensible." For more advanced students, introduce a few more unusual adjectives. For practice, have students form sentences based on famous celebrities, such as "Jim Carrey is silly."
Older children may be able to discuss their personalities in greater depth. For advanced children's classes, provide a list of conversation topics, all based on personality. You can hand out the lists to small groups and have each group select a limited number of topics for discussion. Alternately, you can let the students work in pairs and organise the activity more like an interview. Let one students ask all the questions and the other student answer and then have them switch roles.
For older children and preteens, personality quizzes and tests often hold intense attraction. Depending on your learners' reading level, you might provide them with a personality quiz taken from an English language pop psychology or lifestyle-themed magazine. If necessary, hold a short introductory lesson beforehand to cover any unusual vocabulary from the article. You can also rewrite an article to accommodate a lower level class. Let the students administer the test to one another and then identify which group they each fall into. As a follow-up activity, have students work in small discussion groups to debate whether they find the personality quiz accurate.
A common topic among elementary and intermediate learners, comparatives fit into personality-themed lessons very well. Elicit suggestions from your class of their favourite celebrities, including local, national and internationally-known figures, as well as fictional characters from films or books. You may need to brush up on child pop stars and popular books in preparation. Write the list of names on your blackboard, off to one side. On the other side, write a list of adjectives to describe personality. Have students take turns comparing two or more famous people, based on the listed adjectives. For example, a student might say "Hermione Granger is smarter than Hillary Clinton, but Hillary Clinton is smarter than Christina Aguilera." You can also use the lesson to teach superlatives: "Justin Bieber is the silliest."
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