Split Personalities is a fun TEFL activity which helps students practice their speaking skills, specifically in describing how people look, their clothes and so on (although it can also be adapted and used for other descriptions). It is ideal for lower level classes but again can be adapted for higher levels, too.
First you need to find a pile of pictures from magazines. Ideally these are clear shots showing a single person (for example, the picture on this page). Get enough pictures so that you have at least twice as many students as pictures (e.g. if you have 10 students in your class, you need 5 pictures) and then simply cut the pictures into two. You may want to laminate them to prolong their useful life.
Note that the picture shouldn’t be someone famous as you’ll need your students to describe the picture rather than just say who it is. And since the students will be describing these pictures you can vary how hard you make the activity by limiting the amount of contextual information in the pictures. So, for example, if you just have someone’s face it will be harder to describe than someone who is standing in a street where the students can describe not only the person by their background as well.
You will also need some sticky tape.
Before the activity, go over with your students the language they’ll need to describe people. Words and phrases like:
tall, short, fat, thin
she’s wearing a…
he’s got a … on
and so on. These should, of course, be of the right level for your class.
Then have the students describe each other and some pictures of famous people just for practice. You can do this as a class activity to begin with and then split the students into smaller groups for extra practice while you monitor.
Running the Activity
Now comes the fun part. Have the students stand in a circle facing in. Shuffle your pile of pictures and then go around the outside of the circle and stick half a picture to the back of every student with some tape; make sure they are stuck firmly!
Tell the students that they MUST NOT TRY TO SEE their own picture. Instead, they have to go around and describe other people’s pictures and ask questions about their own. The goal is to find someone with the matching half of the picture they have on their back!
When a couple think they have a match they can come up to you to check.
- You can make the pictures describe almost anything and ideally you can use them to reinforce previous lessons.
- If you have an uneven number of students in the class this does not matter; one student will not find a partner but that’s not important as they will still get a chance to ask and answer about their picture.