Friday, 9 September 2011

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Getting to know you activity: personality test

At this time of year, it seems appropriate to share a ‘getting to know you’ activity. I came across this quickfire interview (for want of a better word) with the singer Emmy the Great in the (occasionally NSFW) music magazine The Stool Pigeon:

I thought it would make an interesting way to introduce yourself and the students to each other at the beginning of a new class. Obviously, you need to make your own (I dream of having a class where I can discuss the relative merits of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy vs Bill Callahan!), but I think it’s easily adaptable for any type of class.

Here’s how I’d use it in my classes:

1) Give the students the following on a handout:

2) Explain that this list is a way for them to find out more information about each others personalities. Write the first line on the board. Explain that on each line there are two choices which could be considered opposites, using the line on the board as an example.

3) Explain that you want to make sure they understand all the choices before they make a decision. Ask them to read them to read the options and discuss any problem vocabulary with a partner. Do a CCQ to make sure they understand exactly what you want them to do, especially since you don’t want them to take the test yet.

4) Get feedback and discuss any new vocabulary as a class. Make sure that you don’t give anything away about your own personality at this point.

5) Now ask them to individually take the personality test, highlighting or underlining the choice they think best reflects their personality.

6) Once they tests are complete, ask them to compare their answers with their partners and discuss their similarities and differences.

7) As a class, get some feedback from the pairs. Ask them to share some of the similarities and differences they found.
8) Ask everyone to stand up. Tell them that you are going to divide the class into two groups, so we can find out more about each other. Choose one of the lines from the test and divide the class into two groups by the preference. For example, you could ask the ‘cat people’ to stand on the left and the ‘dog people’ on the right. Put them into smaller groups if there are too many people on one side, and ask them to discuss why they chose cats over dogs or vice versa.

9) Do this three or four times with different lines from the test.

10) To sum up, ask the class if there was anyone who was in the same group every time, or 3 times.

11) Now ask them students in small groups to create four or five (depending on the size of your class) personality quiz choices to find out more about you. Once they’ve finished, depending on time and the size of your class, go round the class and answer the personality test questions they’ve written for you.

Note: There’s a danger that this part could become too teacher centred (“Now it’s your chance to learn alllllll about me...”), but I think this can be avoided by not spending too much time on it and by doing the activity after they’ve had the chance to speak to each other first. You’ve already shown them that they are the priority. It’s also worth remembering that the students really do want to learn about you, so I think in this early class you can be a bit more egocentric than usual.


  1. Hi James!
    The quizz you suggest is really interesting as a starting out activity, and I think it can be quite appealing to kids, too, as long as it is completely student centered: they provide information about themselves and get to know personal aspects of their mates' lives - sort of easy listening gossiping - so, motivation is guaranteed. Besides, it is easy to do (no annoying questions, no writing at all: they'll love it). And finally, it can be fully adapted to the class communicative competence level.
    As a follow up activity, I woud suggest bringing all ideas together in order to try to label the group: "this is a non-fiction summer digital Stones half-full class"
    I'd be also glad to be able to add the Bon Iver/Fleet Foxes pair, but I'm afraid I'd get 100% blank answers.

  2. Hi James,

    I really like this! I'm going to borrow it for my next high-level course.

  3. Hi Paco, thanks for your comment. I like your idea to 'label' the class, especially as was struggling to come up with a good to finish it neatly. Labeling the class does that really effectively.

    And for the record, I'm more of a Bon Iver man myself...

  4. Thanks Leahn, I'd love to know how it goes if you do try it. Be sure to let me know.

  5. Nice ideas. Could definitely see it working well. Merci James !

  6. Cool. This looks great, definitely going to give it a try. Will try to remember to let you know how I get on. Thanks.

  7. Thanks, James! What's also good about this activity - the options to choose between are inexhaustible=) Liked it!


  8. Brad, Adam and Anna - thanks for stopping by and I hope it goes well if you decide to try it. I'd love to hear about it if you do.

  9. Hi James,

    The first week of the new academic year has just finished and I have tried this out in every group.
    I adapted your list a little bit by adding some "local" sets (e.g. 2 music festivals in Belgium) and some business related sets (e.g. multinational /SME).
    In the third year groups, where the students already know each other, I asked them first to predict what their partner had chosen. So it turned into a little competition: who knew their partner best?
    I asked every student to add at least one extra set of their choice. They sometimes needed some help there with the vocab and so we came up with words like loner, junk food, designer label etc. I also learnt a new word from one of the boys: piston:-)
    In every group there was a lot of laughter, everybody was involved, they kept talking (English!) forever while I had the chance to spend some time with every pair, get to know the students and their level of spoken English.
    I did this activity at the end of the first lesson when they felt already a little bit more comfortable. I think I can say everybody left the room this week with a good feeling after this great activity.
    Thanks a lot! I'll definitely file this under "things that work!"


  10. Mieke, thanks a lot for your feedback. It's really gratifying for me to read about how you used in it your classes, especially as it seemed to work so well!

    I really like the way you adapted it to your particular situation and turning it into a test was a great idea. Thanks again.



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