Eccentric Traits

Eccentric Traits is a really fun way to practice close listening‏‎ and speaking‏‎. It’s also very funny and can be used for all learner levels‏ although it’s probably most suited to more advanced classes.

Basically everyone in the class is given an eccentric trait. They then all mingle at a “party” and the object of the exercise is to find out the traits of as many people as possible.

The students will have to be careful with the way they speak and also very attentive in their listening. It’s very good practice for these skills.


Prepare a list of eccentric traits and write each one on a small flashcard. Some traits can be associated with language items, others can be general behavioral traits. For example:

  • you sneeze whenever the word ME is said to you
  • you think everything is funny
  • you do not understand anything said to you
  • you must try to finish other people’s sentences
  • you can only speak in the past tense
  • YOU must SAY every OTHER word LOUDLY and IN capitals
  • you can only answer with a question
  • you are really afraid of the person you’re speaking to
  • you want to argue at all costs
  • you are in love with the person you’re talking to (whoever it is!)
  • you think the person you’re talking to smells horrible
  • you can’t use any personal pronouns

And so on. The more inventive, the better, but when you prepare these do try to take into account the make up of your class and don’t put anything too provocative down.

On some of the cards you might want to add some examples and explanations if you think the class will need it.

Demonstration in Class

Explain to your class that they are going to a party. However, every person at the party will have a strange eccentric trait and the object of the game is to work out what the trait is.

At this point you might like to demonstrate the idea yourself. Choose a suitable trait and invite the class to ask you questions about anything; your answers will include the trait.

The only proviso is they can’t ask about the trait directly.

Suppose, for example, you chose to be hard of hearing. Every time a student ask you something, you can ask for clarification, ask them to speak louder, perhaps mishear what they said and so on.

S1: Where were you born?
T: Sorry? What did you say?
S1: I asked you where you were born?
T: Oh! I see. It’s quarter to five. Next question?

At the end of a couple of minutes invite them to guess what your trait was. It doesn’t matter if they are wrong in guessing, the point is to come up with some good and inventive ideas.

Once the class are happy with what to do, you can run the activity itself.

Running the Activity

Firstly, distribute the cards. You might like to have your students come up one at a time and choose a trait at random (or you may prefer to give them out yourself to suit the student) and then check that the student has understood exactly what the trait is. They must not, of course, tell anyone else!

Explain to the class that they will speak in pairs for a couple of minutes. During that time they can talk about whatever they want (as long as it’s in English!) but the object is to work out what the trait of the other person is.

When everyone has their trait, get everyone standing together with a pen and paper. Get them into pairs and on your signal they start talking, trying to work out from each other what the trait is.

After a couple of minutes, stop them and give them a few moments to write down what they think the trait of the person they spoke to was. Then have them find a new partner and repeat the exercise. This goes on until time is up or everyone has spoken to everyone else.

The final stage is to see if anyone has found the trait. One by one ask about individual students in the class and invite ideas about what the trait was.

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Posted in Lesson Plans & Activities.

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