The Describing Behaviour Lesson

Lesson background

This lesson is one of the newest I have recently used with many different ages and levels from teenagers to adult professionals. It’s very easy for it to be organic and what I mean by that here is that you don’t have to prepare a lot of materials. Rather just let the topic and the students dictate the direction the lesson goes in. My popular consumerism lesson can supplement this lesson theme nicely.

In other words, let your students decide what to focus on in this lesson, here are the common threads:

  • The nature vs nurture debate
  • Marketing and behaviour – incentives for shopping
  • The impact of role models – celebrities, parents, peers
  • Peer pressure in (culture your students are most familiar with) examples of peer pressure in our society
  • detrimental effects vs beneficial effects OR pros and cons of…X(look below for themes)
  • Strict vocabulary lesson only

Those are the main areas that usually have come up when I’ve done this lesson with the most popular ones being the incentives vs deterrent words with relation to everyday activities like shopping, exercise and/or losing weight, food choices etc…

Lesson time: 30min or 60min or more


Write behaviour on the board and circle it. Write personality and circle it and write attitude and circle it. Connect the three circles with each other so you have a triangle. Ask students to brainstorm words they associate with these headings and get feedback. During feedback it should be established fairly organically that these are connected but different in their own way. You don’t have to go to too deep as most levels will understand this difference. You can categorise all three under “Personal Qualities”.

Here are some examples that might come up, you can use these if your students lack ideas of their own and ask them to categorise the words you provided them. Do the above feedback to explain any new vocabulary.

  • Attitude: resilient, persistent, flexible, self-centred, self-assured, cheerful, tactful, spontaneous, conscientious, impulsive, proud
  • Personality: determined, loyal, patient, sociable, friendly, sensible, assertive, sensitive, decisive, eccentric, passionate, naive, resourceful,
  • Behaviour: considerate, tolerant, cheerful, energetic, well-mannered, well-behaved, reliable, clumsy, dedicated, adaptable,

Ask students to divide these words into positive and negative if you like to reinforce the vocabulary.

Ask students to discuss their behaviour in these instances and say how similar it is or how it changes in these situations below, if they don’t feel comfortable talking about themselves then ask them to talk about someone they know well. Have them provide examples of the behaviour as they talk. Here’s a great lesson idea on expressing opinions.

In the morning, in the evening, when you’re tired, when you’re hungry, around your family, around your friends, at school, in public, with strangers, with friends, at a social event, with neighbours

Additional questions(optional):

  1. Where do people get their behaviours/attitudes/personality from? Is it from birth or do they learn them? provide examples
  2. Who has the greatest influence on someone’s behaviour/personality/attitude? Why?
  3. What words describe qualities you like in a friend? what words describe qualities you detest and avoid?


The main vocabulary for this lesson comes from Oxford Word skills advanced unit 18. The unit is divided into two sections as seen below:

The vocabulary can be introduced numerous ways but the fastest would be creating a matching exercise with the glossary words jumbled up so that students have to match them with the definitions on their own. Another option is to create an opposites task as most of these words have a pair as in nurture and nature, detrimental and beneficial, incentive and deterrent, deprived and spoiled/pampered as well as peer and subordinate/superior. 

You can adapt the exercises on doc to suit you quite easily depending on how much time you want to spend on the vocabulary or alternatively they can be used for revision at the end or in the future.


This is the meaty part of the lesson where you can encourage your students to justify their opinions with examples and provide details on their experiences.

Questions for debate/discussion/ pair work conversation

  • Who are some role models in your culture or for you personally?
  • How critical a part do role models play when we are younger and as we grow into adulthood?
  • What areas of life are role models the most helpful in?

Behaviour and Habits:

Put on the board the word incentive and deterrent and draw circles around each separately, allow for space between them so you can make a spidergram. Once you have discussed the definition then try to illicit what are the main functions of incentives and deterrents. Here’s what I did in my class:

Once that is on the board now ask students to discuss different areas of their lives where incentives/deterrents impact their behaviour, here are some topics for you:

  • shopping decisions
  • kids
  • Employees
  • Public behaviour
  • Driving, riding a bike
  • taking on a new hobby

 Note: It’s worth pointing out the verb forms of these words (incentivise and deter) Here’s my top verb forms lesson idea with speaking.

More questions

  1. What are the beneficial and detrimental effects of these things:
  • exercising a lot
  • postponing tasks/homework for the last moment
  • tourism in exotic locations

Short reading

Here’s a text on different ways to apply incentives affectively:

I got it here from the site which is a great resource for such topics. With this short text you can have rapid fire comprehension questions to ask after they read it. You can time them and then get feedback by putting the ideas on the board.

Once they are on the board then you can ask students to discuss which is the most effective for them and if they’ve used any.



Feel to adapt all the ideas here into a lesson you prefer. All this cannot be done at once so you’ll have to be selective in choosing the combination of vocabulary, speaking and reading content that is suitable. Hope it’s helpful.

Was this lesson idea useful? You can find more by checking out the whole collection here? Need more tips? Check out the YouTube channel with over 200 episodes on teaching and learning English.

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