Adjectives of personality can be incredibly difficult to teach and learn. For one thing, not many of them translate well, with an apparently similar word from another language turning out to be positive where the English word is negative, or to have a much wider or more restricted meaning that the translation would suggest. There are also so many personality words, meaning that any kind of freer practice turns up more and more words even if you’ve already given them a huge list.
Having said all that, there are some great activities for adjectives of personality that students love and learn a lot from. Given a really good activity that students can get involved in, they soon forget the difficulties and even become fascinated by the differences between languages. Good activities will also allow them to use the words over and over again and to think about them in more depth until they really are clear about the meaning and connotations. 15 such activities are listed below.
One of the best ways of getting students to look at the same language many times so that they understand and remember it a bit better each time is to ask them to rank the personality adjectives in some way. Possibilities include putting the adjectives in order of importance for a lover, spouse, employee, boss, teacher or politician. They can then compare their ideas with another group.
Give students a roleplay card telling them what their personality is, and ask them to act that way until their partner guesses what adjective they were given. Situations in which they can do so include shopping, blind dates, job interviews and press/TV interviews.
3. Describe the people
One student uses personality adjectives to describe someone until their partners guess who they are talking about. This could be a family member, someone else that they know, someone famous, or their impressions of someone in a page of portraits that they have been given. It also works for animals, especially in a mixed-nationality class where the similarities and differences in the impressions of the personalities of foxes, elephants etc can be very interesting.
Give students a questionnaire that is supposed to measure one or more aspect of their personality, but without its title. After they have answered the questions, they can work together to guess what they were being tested on (e.g. how generous they are), and to compare their answers with their partner(s). They can then write similar questionnaires for other personality words for other groups to answer the questions on and then guess which character traits are being tested. Creative and high level groups might also be able to improvise such questions without writing them down.
5. Your personality
Ask students to guess each other’s personality. The simplest way is for them to make statements such as “I think you are quite patient” for their partner to respond to with expressions like “Are you pulling my leg?” or “You could say that.” You could also ask them to guess facts that support that judgement, e.g. “I think that you are quite adventurous. I guess that you have been hiking on your own a few times.”
6. Guess the personality word
The simplest way of doing a guessing game with character adjectives is to ask someone to define one of the words or give examples until their partner guesses what it is, e.g. “A fox is said to be this way. It is like ‘clever’, but in a negative way” for “cunning”. You could also limit them to giving examples of actions that illustrate particular personality words, e.g. “He refused to change his mind about which pasta restaurant we went to” for “stubborn”. They could also make statements about who the word that they are describing is and isn’t particularly important for, e.g. “This is the worst thing for a nursery nurse but quite a good thing for a boxer” for “aggressive”.
7. Personality Yuppies
Yuppies is a game in one of the Communication Games books in which they take turns boasting about how “My house is more expensive than your car” and “My servant is more intelligent than your house”. Something similar can be done with personality words by asking them to compare boyfriends, bosses, teachers etc with sentences, e.g: “My boyfriend is more generous than your boyfriend. Yesterday he bought me one diamond in the morning and another in the afternoon” and “Okay, that’s pretty impressive. My boyfriend is more intelligent than yours, though. He speaks 100 languages.”
8. Personality and gender
Ask one student to describe the character of a famous person or someone that they know, and the other person to guess as soon as they are certain of the gender of that person. They are only allowed one guess, and lose five points if they are wrong.
9. Personality and gender discussion
Students could also discuss if certain personality words (e.g. “stubborn” or “vague”) are connected more to one gender than the other, or are more desirable or unacceptable in one gender than in the other.
10. Find the personality word
While they are watching a video, students shout out every time that they think they see a personality word illustrated by what is on the screen and the class discuss whether their statement (e.g. “Mr Bean is cunning. He is fooling the little kid”) is really represented by the video. These sentences can be from a list of personality words or just whatever the students can think of.
Positive Personality Adjectives List
Negative Personality Adjectives List