10 Ways to Explore and Expand the Topic of Personality Types

In a recent video lesson, I presented vocabulary for talking about the range of personalities a person can have. It leans towards pop psychology, and that’s the fun of it. Few of us have any credible background in psychology (the handful of courses I took in college do not equal a degree!), but we’ve all taken a personality test on trending website or have figured out why we relate so well to certain characters in books and movies. We’ve put thought into what makes us tick and why we click with certain people.

Many people I know, including language learners, enjoy the chance to identify what kind of character they have.  When framed in a light, friendly context, personal discoveries and shared habits lead to discussion and laughter. “Oh, I’m like that, too!” or “My sister is nothing like me.” Consider the different ways you can make personality types a hot topic in the classroom for upper level students.

1. Use the 10-question quiz in my YouTube video. You can focus only on the questions and select a limited number of vocabulary words in advance. Watching the full video independently can be recommended task.

2. Have students create their own quizzes. They can create a Word doc or PowerPoint presentation or use an online site like SurveyMonkey. Have them focus on introverted vs. extroverted people or other spectrums, such as ranking high or low in conscientiousness. Present the key words you want to target. Then working in pairs or small groups, students can be assigned the task of creating a 2-3 question quiz to determine which trait someone has more of.  Quizzes can be posted for the whole class to take. After each quiz is completed, the writers need to explain the results. Model: “If you answered yes to all the questions, you’re very efficient. If you answered no to all the questions, you rank low in conscientiousness. You probably procrastinate.” Let the class agree or disagree with the results.

3. Use student polls. Each student can be assigned the task of creating one question to target a single trait, for instance, how competitive someone is. The class can go around polling classmates for a short period of time. Then the results can be presented to the class. Model: “I polled everyone to see who is competitive and who isn’t. I found that more than half of us are very competitive. These people play to win.”

4. Have students match personality traits to celebrities. You can post 2-3 photos of famous people and ask that students work in pairs to describe each celebrity. (You can be silly and include your own photo.) Encourage the use of target vocabulary: outgoing, reserved, irritable, sensitive, a perfectionist, and so on.  Prompt students to explain their word choices with examples.

5. Select a movie scene in which one or two personalities are clearly shown. MovieClips on YouTube has many scenes to choose from. Some options:
Breakfast Club (1985 – receiving their assignment scene)
Back to the Future (1985 – Marty sees George, Biff, and future mayor scene)
Scent of a woman (1992 – tango scene)
Have students work in pairs to write a short description of one character.

6. Role play with assigned traits. Students can take turns acting out 1-minute scenes: ordering food at a restaurant, checking in at a hotel, a job interview, meeting the parents of a boyfriend or girlfriend, buying shoes, or any other situation that would be familiar to the students. The selected group of 3 or 4 students can draw a “trait” card from a bag. Be sure to review the vocabulary before you place the “trait” cards in the bag. Whatever trait they pull is the one they must act out in the scene. The rest of the class will observe and then guess each actor’s trait when the scene finishes.

Tip: If you’re in an online classroom, you can send private messages to the actors with their assigned trait so that no one else knows what trait a person has to act out beforehand.

7. Assign a short speaking/writing task on the topic of personalities in one’s family. Students can gain familiarity with more advanced vocabulary in my YouTube lesson on extended family. Each student should be able to describe at least two relatives from different generations to compare and contrast personalities. Model: “My family has a lot of introverts. My father and my grandparents are quiet people who like to stay home. I’m mostly like them. But my mother is extroverted. She’s outgoing and talkative.”

8. Generate small group discussion that challenges students to match ideal personalities to specific jobs. Assign one job to each pair or small group and ask students to list at least three personality traits that would make a person ideally suited for the job. To be more realistic, you can select jobs from an actual website like LinkedIn. Spark students’ imaginations and have them assume the role of HR experts.

9. Assign a short speaking/writing task on the topic of choosing one’s friends. Have students describe their inner circle and explain why they “click” with certain people. Model: “I have a small group of friends. I like watching movies or just hanging out. I’m the quiet one. I guess I’m reserved. My friends are more extroverted. They like excitement and because of them, I sometimes try new things. I think none of us is really competitive, and that’s why we get along.”

10. Generate small group discussion on the topic of famous couples and their personalities. Ask each pair or small group to select a famous couple from the present or past and explain why the couple gets along or why they didn’t. Prompt use of relevant vocabulary. From Bazaar to Slice, there are plenty of online “famous couples” lists to refer to.

Got your own tip? Feel free to share.

Featured photo by Clker-Free-Vector-Images. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/vectors/people-persons-men-woman-43575/.

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