Here’s a really fun lesson that I would often do with young adults (18-24 year olds) for longer classes (2 hours or more). The target language is physical characteristics and personality traits. This lesson can be used for pre-intermediate and above as long as you adjust the target language accordingly to their level. This lesson involves students leaving the classroom, so make sure you are able to do this where you are working.
Intro (just a few minutes)
Use one of these
1. Pretend to be a private investigator and elicit this out from students
2. Come in looking physically different (change 5 things about your appearance) and get students to notice them.
Lead in (around 7 minutes)
1. What is a physical characteristic?
2. What is a personality trait?
3. What are some different ways that you can describe/identify a person?
4. How would you describe yourself? (5 things both physical and personality)
Target Language (around 10 minutes)
I’m not going to list all of the target language here, but think of a variety of different words to describe someone. This can be anything from ‘wavy’ hair to ‘chiselled’ features. Also, make sure to add personality traits as well. As long as it’s level appropriate it won’t be a problem.
Study 1 (5 minutes)
Have a group of pictures of people/celebrities and strips of the target lexis on pieces of paper. In groups, students match up the descriptions/target lexis with the pictures of the people.
Study 2 (7-10 minutes)
First, take all of the pictures or make copies of them. Then, in groups, have students verbally describe one of the pictures and the other students have to guess which picture they are talking about.
Continue the studies until you are confident that the students can use the words accurately and freely.
Activation (40 minutes or more depending on time)
Pass out a piece of paper (if needed) and tell the students to stand up and that you’re all going to a supermarket or department store (whatever is closest). Tell them that they are private detectives and that they will have to follow a customer and write down with as much detail as possible the person, what they look like, their mannerisms, their personality...etc.
Tip: You can’t do this unless your students feel comfortable with you. Also, make sure you have the time for it and that there’s a place close where they can do this. Obviously, students have to be sly with this, so that the people they are observing don’t suspect anything. Check with the school you are working at to see if they have a problem with the lesson before going into it.
Take them to the supermarket and have them make profiles of one or two people. This means that they secretly follow the shoppers around and record their characteristics and personality traits. Students show you what they have written and when you feel everyone has enough content/info you can leave.
Now back in the classroom, students can do a variety of things with these profiles. This can be students in groups writing stories about the different profiles that they’ve taken complete with names etc. You can have the students create an imaginary crime and they have to create the police report for it. Or you could do an entire Most Wanted list where groups of students have to describe a variety of the crimes committed in the city and describe what the suspect looked like and all of the characteristics of the wanted person. There are tons of different things you can do so get creative.
This setup is a lot of fun.
If you or your students do not feel comfortable leaving the class and writing characteristics of strangers, have them create the profiles on their own. The activation is still solid, so don’t worry if you feel you can’t leave the classroom. I can guarantee that you’re students have never done anything like it before, so if it’s OK with your school and students, you’ll have a blast.
The Language House TEFL