How would you describe yourself? Here are 16 Personalities full of juicy descriptor words

  • Level: B2, C1
  • Questions embeded in the activity
  • Language focus: adjectives, descriptors, personal traits
  • Media: interactive quiz (reading)

How would you describe yourself? Tell us about you? Why hire you rather than someone else? Could you tell the class a few things about yourself? From job interviews to cocktail parties, this question can crop up in so many places. Yet whether I ask it or answer it, it always seems to create a moment dead air that can be a little awkward.

Being in the Spotlight

Even if it’s a pretty basic question, it does require that you expose yourself. And if you don’t want to expose yourself, well that kind of exposes you anyway. In other words, if you answer you have to say stuff, and if you don’t, well that says something too. That challenge basically boils down to the whole introvert, extrovert, ambivert dimension (see the lesson for more on that).

I Need More Word-Thingies

The second challenge in answering is of course vocabulary–which is what makes it a great ESL conversation lesson. This question will inevitably trigger the need for adjectives and descriptors. Once you have used up the garden variety, “I’m a hard-working person”, “I am perseverant” (because most language learners are), “I am sensitive”, even a native speaker may be at a loss for something to say. Or the opposite might happen, so many things start tumbling out of your mouth, you don’t know what to choose and when to stop.

A Little Preparation and Practice Never Hurt

I’m not saying we should prepare a one-size-fits-all speech that we learn by heart and recite anytime we are asked…that would be weird. But full disclosure, I myself have put some thought into this question and I do sometimes practice in my head…yep. I even have a first day of class version, a job interview version and a small talk version.

Hungry for Words

If you are hungry for words, one of my students recommended this great psycho-quiz called 16 Personalities. I use it in a job searching workshop to train students to answer the famed “tell me about yourself” interview question. The site is super well done, full of varied adjectives and descriptors and the questions are succinct, thought-provoking and fairly simple.

Warm-up

  • Read through the personalities with your students
  • Clear up any vocabulary issues
  • Have them predict which personality correcponds to them

Le quiz: 16 Personalities

Discussion

  • What personality are you?
  • Say 5 to 6 descriptor words you don’t usually use, but that you really identify with
  • Are there any aspects of the description that you disagree with?
  • Can you give examples/anecdotes from your life that demonstrate this personality type?

Amy Cuddy: Can my body language affect my mood?

Can my body language affect my mood? Your body language may not only affect how people perceive you, but it may also have an impact on your brain chemistry. Watch Amy Cuddy’s famous TED talk (I suggest you break it down into smaller parts and do short Tell Backs) to find out just how profound the way we carry ourselves changes our outlook.

Teachers note: 

Cuddy speaks fast, but the vocabulary is relatively repetitive and she uses a lot of non-visuals. I would encourage you to preface this video with a bit about the Whole Language Approach. Tell them that they don’t have to understand everything. Review some of the meta-tools they have to achieve comprehension: non-verbal language, guessing from context. It may be frustrating for adults not to understand everything, but I feel it is important to expose them to first language material to prepare them for real life conversations with native speakers. Thus the more they get used to (by that I mean get used to not understanding everything) quick talking native speakers the more they will likely take their English out and use it.

Also you can add subtitles and slow the video down a bit with these features:

Pre discussion

  • Some vocabulary:
    • posture
    • body language
    • non verbal behaviour
    • power dynamics
    • power and dominance
    • assertive
    • optimistic
    • hormone
    • fake it t’ill you make it
  • What kind of body language makes a good impression? 
  • How important do you think body language is in communication

*You could cut the video at about 14:00 where Cuddy describes the study that supports her findings. Unless you find that interesting (which it is) it might be a little detached from the general point.

The Video: TED Amy Cudy Your body language may shape who you are

What is the most important element that Cuddy is highlighting?

Why is it important to be “body aware”?

What will happen if you change your body language the way Cuddy suggests?

What can you conclude about the impacts of posture on our outlook on life?

For more on this topic see Body Language Mistakes

Bitmoji Image

What is your comfort food?

What is your comfort food? I dare you to NOT think of the answer. Too late? I bet your favourite dish is already in your mind. Maybe you are even seeing a memory or a person attached to this dish. Is it something your mother made when you were sick? Something you eat at Christmas? Is it sweet or salty?

Healthy…probably not

Chances are your comfort food is not too healthy. Right? Generally speaking, comfort foods are hardy, starchy and fatty. All great words that describe food. And that is exactly what you will find in this Insider Food video featuring 20 different people from 20 different cultures describing their comfort food.

But it makes me happy

Food makes people happy, conjures memories, and heals us when we are sick or sad and is often the heart of most celebrations. It is also a super fun thing to talk about. It ties in food, feelings, events and people, thus a nice integrated vocabulary exercise. The perfect Whole Language exercise.

While you listen

This video is chalk-a-block full of vocabulary, so I made a Google docs handout available through Teachers Pay Teachers to help collect the essential ideas. Or you can try this cool interactive worksheet. Of course, if you are working with more advanced students, you might want to ditch the handout and just let the students note what they can. Rember you can turn the CC on and slow down the video.

Google Docs Handout

Pre Discussion

  • Just to get the food words flowing, do a Mind Map
  • What is your comfort food?
  • Why?

The Video: 20 Comfort Foods From around the world

Discussion

  • Which story did you find the most interesting?
  • Which dish have you tried?
  • Which dish would you like to try?
  • What do most of the dishes have in common?
  • What were some of the reasons the dishes were considered comforting?

Why do we teach boys to be brave and girls to be perfect?

  • Language focus: comparisons, hypotheticals
  • Media: video

Now that is a loaded question if I ever did blog one. Admittedly gender difference always creates discussion. But not always the discussions I like to facilitate. In fact, I usually stay away from overly simplistic comparisons, especially when they pit the two most basic attributes of humanity. However, when I watched Reshma Saujani’s TED talk, I instantly wanted to talk about it.

Can it be true? And what if it is?

Saujani hammers a societal observation that had me searching all my memories as a young girl. Do we teach our boys to be brave and our girls to be perfect? And the follow-up question: how has this shaped our society? Said differently, how has this impacted our job market, our political paradigms, technological progress, social and familial priorities…the list goes on.

CTRL Z please!

Saunjani strikes a particularly sensitive chord when she describes some of the anecdotes from her coding school for girls. She describes a girl sitting in front of her blank coding screen, feeling like she is just not good enough to compose code that will work. But when you do CTRLZ (undo) to go back a few keystrokes, she finds pages full of code that was deleted that simply “wasn’t good enough”.

Warm Up

  • Mind Map some of the biases we have about girls and boys (e.g. girls and creative and boys are good at math, boys are more physical, etc.)
Handout on TPT 0.99$

The Video: Teach girls bravery, not perfection by Reshma Saujani

Is failure always bad?

Is failure always a bad thing? I think we all know the answer to that. However, whether consciously or unconsciously, the fear of failure might be telling us a lot about who we are and how we can turn that fear into a constructive element in our lives.  If you are in the mood for an introspective discussion, watch author Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) talk about what failure has done for her.

As I listened to Gilbert’s talk, I found myself sifting through my memories for failures that became life-altering moments. It also reminded me of the discomfort of realizing that I had made a mistake, and how sometimes I failed at failing. That is to say, I didn’t reflect, I didn’t change. Instead, I filled those moments away never to think about them again.

But now that I am a mother, I witness how my children deal with failure and mistakes. It’s not always fun to watch them squirm and even harder to help them realize what went wrong and how to move forward. To soften the lesson, I find myself digging into my past only to find a treasure trove of my own embarrassments, imperfections and hurts (some caused and some received). I use these to tell them about my own mistakes–to model how being honest with yourself and others might be uncomfortable, but full of great learning experiences. In some respects, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, if you can stomach the process of listening to it.

Do a tell back of the main points in Gilbert’s presentation.

Are there elements in Gilbert’s presentation that relate to your life?

Do you have successes and failures that have marked your life?

How have your successes and failures defined your path? In other words, where might you be today if things were different?

Do you have an activity that you love more than anything that transcends the need to succeed or the fear of failure?

Why do we believe weird things?

  • Level: B1, B2, C1
  • Handout on TPT
  • Media: Video
  • Language focus: beliefs, superstitions, conspiracy theories, fake news, disinformation.

Why do we believe weird things?

Fake news, misinformation, disinformation, these concepts are all over the media. We all know it’s out there, but how can we tell what is true and what is fake? First, let’s play a game…

True or False

  • Salt makes water boil quicker.
  • You should never swim right after you eat
  • Some people are more right-brain thinkers and others more left-brain thinkers.
  • Toilets flush differently in the southern hemisphere than the northern hemisphere.
  • Einstein failed math.
  • Humans and dinosaurs co-existed
  • Vaccines cause autism.
  • You need to wait 24 hours to file a missing person’s report.
  • We use only 10% of our brain.
  • Most of our body heat leaves through our heads.
  • You should never wake a sleepwalker.
  • Bats are blind.
  • Alcohol keeps you warm.
  • Sugar creates hyper children.
  • Your hair and nails keep growing after you die.
  • Slaves built the pyramids in Egypt.

In case you use this to generate discussion with your class, I won’t give you the answers. You could invite your students to check for themselves at Readers Digest.

It’s your brain’s fault

Famous debunker and Skeptic.com’s editor-in-chief  Michael Shermer gives us a bit of insight into how our brain is wired to makes us believe weird things.  He explains and demonstrates how things like priming and cognitive bias are natural neurological predispositions that lead us to faulty conclusions. This discussion utilizes vocabulary in both pure science and psychology to demonstrate, in very cool ways, how media can create what I will term “information blind spots.”

Lesson Notes

***Caution! I did this lesson with a high intermediate student and they were overwhelmed with Shermer’s speed. I would recommend slowing the video down and using this True/False handout to explain and explore some of the vocabulary and concepts in the video. Have your students read through the statements and make predictions about the possible answers. Then have your students watch the video to confirm or correct their original impressions.

warm up

Go through the handout and predict which statements are true or false.

The Video: Why People Believe Weird Things

Discussion

  • What makes us believe weird things…make a Mind Map of all the elements you hear?
  • Are you a skeptic?
  • Why don’t we listen to science?

Enjoy!

Mel

Do you believe in luck?

  • Level: A1, A2, B1, B2
  • Handout: Free on TPT
  • Media: Video
  • Language focus: emotions, actions, comparisons

Do you believe in luck?

I once introduced one of my girlfriend’s to a boy that seemed to be a good match for her. When I asked if things had worked out, she said no. She said he was nice, but he did not seem to have luck. She said it as if ‘luck’ was something you could be born with.

Is luck something you are born with?

That was such a strange way of looking at luck. It made me realize that this idea can be seen in so many different ways depending on your culture, your beliefs and perhaps your superstitions.

On the one hand, it can open up discussions on gratefulness, positivity and recognizing all the things in our lives that make us feel lucky…our children, our health, various aspects of our lives that make us happy.

Luck and Culture

But luck can also be explored culturally. For instance, in Japanese mythology, the Seven Gods of Luck are believed to have the power to grant luck. Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism, also have gods or figures that are believed to bestow luck. I suppose this means that you can believe in luck like you would believe in god. Or that if you are unlucky, it may be because you don’t deserve luck.

In this wordless animated short by Mike Bidinger & Michelle Kwon called Jinxy Jenkins & Lucky Lou, yet another facet of luck is explored. Jinxy is a walking disaster. Every step he takes is laced with misfortune. He is nervous and unhappy all the time. Conversely, Lou is so lucky she seems bored and unchallenged. I will let you watch to see what happens when the two meet.

Lesson Notes

Warm up

Free on TPT

When I taught this lesson, I used this template to collect the answers. Feel free to use it too. It is a free handout on Teacher Pay Teachers. I included the results of our discussion in case you need some ideas to prime your discussion.

  • Do you think you are lucky?
  • What makes you feel lucky?
  • Does your culture have any beliefs or superstitions about luck?

The Video: Jinxy Jenkins & Lucky Lou by Mike Bidinger & Michelle Kwon

Discussion Questions

  • What actions or events in the movie make the girl (Lou) lucky?
  • What actions or events make the boy (Jinxy) unlucky?
  • Why do you think Jinxy is so unlucky? Is there anything in his attitude?
  • Why do you think Lou is so lucky?
  • What happens when they meet?
  • Why does Lou seem unhappy about being lucky?
  • Do you have any examples in your life where luck was important?
  • Would you be happy if you were as lucky as Lou?

What bad habit would you like to break?

Why are bad habits so hard to break?

First, let’s clarify that a bad habit is a negative behaviour pattern–perhaps one that causes bodily harm. So if your daily glass of wine is not causing you harm then it can stay (yay!)? However, if you drink a whole bottle, text old boyfriends/girlfriends or pass out on the sofa, that may be a different story.

Without being too hard on ourselves, I’m sure we can think of at least one bad habit. Mine…I stress eat. When I get stressed, I feel hungry, crave sweets (I don’t even like sweets) and I’m always looking forward to my next meal.

But why?

The creators of ASAP Science YouTube channel look at bad habits from the scientific perspective. They explain why we feel the need to repeat behaviours even when they hurt us. Let this scientific explanation take the guilt out of your bad habits and give you something interesting to talk about with your students.

Pre discussion

  • Mind Map a list of bad habits.
  • What are your bad habits?

The Video: How to Break Your Bad Habit

  • What are some of the bad habits mentioned in the video?
  • How much of our behaviour is done out of habit?
  • Can you explain “chunking”? What does it do for us?
  • Can you name the elements in the 3 step loop?
  • How can you change a habit?
  • Now think of your own bad habit…what do you think it provides for you? (e.g. a rest, socialization, a break from boredom, a break from stress, etc…)

Let me know how the discussions turn out. I love to hear from you.

How are you feeling?

Can you describe what emotions you are experiencing right now? This is the question Tiffany Watt Smith asks her TED audience to sensitize them on how easy or how hard it is to put words on our emotions. This is a fantastic presentation to conjure the vocabulary of emotions and an esl psychology lesson.

Do you think words can really describe how we feel? If you watched the movie Inside Out, or are knowledgeable about the scientific litterature on emotions, you may have heard that emotions have been broken down into 6 basic forms: anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise. The first time I read this, I found it hugely oversimplified. I just couldn’t relate my own personal experience with this.  Yet, these basic emotions seem to be the baseline for emotional researchers.

Smith challenges this simple view of emotional language. She looks across different languages and cultures to show the complexity and diversity of the words used to describe how we are feeling. She even suggests that the very existence of these words may allow us to feel things that people in other cultures don’t. She exposes a compelling and thought provoking-idea that words can shape how we feel. Before you start, be sure to download the Google docs included in this post. It has a preliminary list of emotions vocabulary words.

Warm-up

  • What emotion words do you know?
  • Do you think you are good at talking about how you feel?

The Video: TED The History of Human Emotion Discussion by Tiffany Watt Smith

I would break this presentation down into a series of snippets and begin by doing Tell Backs of each segment.  In fact, if you have more basic students, I would stop at the 6 min mark and center a discussion on the vocabulary of emotions. However, for more advanced learners, I would go through the presentation as it digs much deeper into the topic of the history of emotions and maybe very engaging for higher-level discussions.

 

Questions 

  • What emotions does Smith talk about?
  • Can you give some examples of the emotional language of other cultures?
  • What stuck with you in Smith’s presentation?
  • Do you have words in your native language that describe feelings that don’t exist in English?
  • How are emotions viewed in your culture? Do you talk about them, or not?
  • What, according to you, is emotional intelligence?
  • Use the emotional definer wheel and say which are positive and which are negative

Want to download this lesson?

Get the Google Docs version for free

Do you want to climb a mountain?

I am an amateur rock climber…very amateur. It’s not for everyone, I know. But what is interesting about rock climbing is it puts you smack in the middle of a discussion between your “afraid-self” and your “courageous-self”.  Alex Honnold, famed for climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan without ropes, candidly talks about this discussion and how he talked his “afraid-self” into trusting his abilities.

Is fear always something to conquer?

There is a fine line between fear as the voice of a wise consultant and the voice of an insecure mother. In other words, sometimes fear is something you should conquer and sometimes it’s something you should heed.  Sadly, some fantastic athletes have died by choosing wrong.

Alex Honnold the Humble Hero

I am sharing this TED talk more because I am fascinated by Honnold’s composure, discipline and wisdom. What’s more, I think his experience creates an interesting context for a very different type of discussion about fear.

Pre discussion

  • Have you ever done anything that made you afraid?
  • How did you overcome your fear?
  • What are risks worth taking?

The Video: TED with Alex Honnold

  • What are all the elements that Honnold does to prepare for this feat (do a Mind Map)?
  • What did he do to overcome his fears?
  • Why was he not satisfied after he completed his climb?
  • What are the elements that go into “mastery”?
  • Do you master anything?