The Big Five Personality Traits (Upper-Intermediate Lesson)

ESL/EFL Level: Upper-Intermediate (B2/C1)*
Lesson Topics: personality traits, acronyms, career pathing
Skill Focus
: Speaking, Reading, Vocabulary
Approximate Class Time: 2.25 hours
Lesson Plan Download: big-five-personality-traits-upper-intermediate-042023.docx
Lesson Overview:

  • After warm-up questions, students read a passage that explains the "Big Five" personality traits, also known as the OCEAN Model. As students read each trait, they rank themselves on a scale.
  • Post-reading activities include a read, recall, and retell activity, follow-up questions, and a pair-work activity in which students use vocabulary from the passage to ask each other questions.
  • Next, students consider a deserted island scenario and try to guess how people embodying each Big Five trait would respond. They check their answers by watching a five-minute video (YouTube).
  • Next, students participate in two role-play scenarios, one of which is about career development. This is followed by an acronym test, a review of adjectives from the lesson.
  • All lessons come with warm-up questions, vocabulary questions, a review of collocations, and discussion questions.

Difference faces of nine children


  1. *Calling this lesson "Upper-Intermediate" is somewhat inaccurate because three of the key terms that make up the Big Five personality traits are C2-level words (even the word 'trait' is C2). Nevertheless, I've simplified some of the sentence structures and vocabulary in other places to make the lesson more accessible for B2-level learners.
  2. This lesson is unique in that it has two inputs: a reading passage (page 1) and a YouTube video (page 2).
  3. In theory, it would make sense to have students do one of the many free online Big Five Personality tests as part of the lesson or homework. However, the tests take at least 20 minutes and are filled with complex vocabulary and idioms, so in my opinion, they could be too overwhelming for students (unless they are virtually native speakers).

UPPER-INTERMEDIATE (B2/C1) EFL Lesson Plan on Personality Types

Warm-up Questions

  1. How would you define the word personality?
  2. In your opinion, if someone had ‘the worst personality’, how would that person act? How would that compare to someone with the ‘best personality’?
  3. If you were shipwrecked on a deserted island, what would you do?

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-- Lesson plan on The Big Five Personality Traits written by Matthew Barton of (copyright). ChatGPT was used to generate a draft of the reading passage, though revisions were made, and helped generate some of the mistaken sentences for the adjective review activity. Site members may photocopy and edit the file for their classes. Permission is not given to rebrand the lesson, redistribute it on another platform, or sell it as part of commercial course curriculum. For questions, contact the author.

Additional vocabulary answers: 1-h, 2-a, 3-i, 4-d, 5-b, 6-g, 7-c, 8-e, 9-f

Adjective Review Answers: A-open/outgoing, C-conscientious, E-reserved, F-empathetic

Collocation Answers: Collocation Answers: 1-d, 2-b, 3-a, 4-c, 5-e, 6-a


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