15 games for the language of describing people

1. Blind date quiz show One person asks questions of 3 to 4 students, who should answer about the person on the photo they have. The person who asked the questions should then decide who would make the best date, and after being shown the photos of the one they rejected will finally be shown […]

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net

1. Blind date quiz show
One person asks questions of 3 to 4 students, who should answer about the person on the photo they have. The person who asked the questions should then decide who would make the best date, and after being shown the photos of the one they rejected will finally be shown the photo of the one they chose. This works well with photos of famous people.

2. Internet dating chain letters
Another fun variation on the dating theme is for students to write one line about the person wanting a date (from their imaginations), fold over the paper so what they wrote can not be seen, pass the piece of paper to the next person to continue the description etc. When each piece of paper has been passed around at least 6 people, the next person can unfold it and decide if the letter makes sense and/or sounds like a good date.

3. Describing people 20 questions
Students ask yes/no questions about the people whose photos or written descriptions they have (“Is it a woman?” “Does she have long hair?” “Does she have a high pressure job’”) until they guess which person their partner was thinking of.

4. Describing people memory games
For example, students test each other on what people in class look like and are wearing while the person answering the questions has their eyes closed.

5. Guess my description
Students write 10 sentences about themselves and then pass the piece of paper to someone else. The person who received the paper reads the sentences out, starting with the most difficult clues to guess from, until everyone guesses who it refers to.

6. Ranking traits
For example, rank personality words by how important they are for a particular job. Other groups then guess what the job is from the ranking and then say if they agree or disagree

7. Brainstorm sentence endings board race
Teams race to write as many correct ending to a sentence stem as they can, e.g. “He has blue…”, “He has a big…” or just “He is…”

8. Picture dictation
One person explains a picture of a person to their partner, and their partner tries to draw what they hear. This can be done with the person explaining being allowed to see it being drawn or (more difficult) not being able to see and just having to ask and answer questions to make sure they have got it right. It can also be done with the original picture being a line drawing or a photo, with the former obviously being much simpler.

9. Alibi game
Each pair of students is told that they are a suspect for a murder last night and that person’s alibi, and must construct a story about what they were wearing, what the people around them looked like etc when they were at the pub rather than at the scene of the crime at the time of the murder. The two people are then questioned separately on all the details, and the pair in the class with most inconsistencies between their stories are the guilty ones.

10. Project/research
Students are set a task to find out as many things about a famous person as they can. They get points either for the number of details they found, or for every detail they found that no one else did.

11. Dominoes/jigsaws
Students are given different parts of a cut up picture or pictures showing many different people, and have to match the pictures up without showing them to each other.

12. Magazine search
Students challenge each other to find people of a certain kind in the magazines or textbooks that they have (e.g. “Look for someone wearing a blue hat/with a six pack”), and then race to be the first to find that thing. This works with different people having both the same and different books, but if they have different publications you might want to allow them to swap occasionally.

13. Guess the nationality
People describe one person or make generalizations about someone from a particular country, and the others try to guess the nationality. You can do the same thing with regions of their country. This can lead onto language of generalization such as “Most people think that…” or “People in this country tend to…”, which is good for speaking exams such as IELTS, or discussion of the truth and acceptability of stereotypes.

14. Sentence expansion
Give students a very short description of someone, e.g. “He has hair”. They then take turns to make that sentence longer and longer, until someone makes a mistake or gives up.

15. Generalization vary the sentence
This is similar to Sentence Expansion above. Start with a sentence that is an overgeneralization, e.g. “Spanish people are short”, then take turns expanding or changing the sentence to make it more generally true.

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net
July 2008 | Filed under Vocabulary
There are links to more than 400 articles and 1000 worksheets plus 1500 blog posts by Alex Case on TEFLtastic blog.