Who is your ideal housemate? A designer lessons ESL Lesson plan developed by George Chilton

Interviewing housemates. Teens, 14-17. Adults, mixed level. Adjectives of personality

The teacher will provide a frame-work in which natural English is drawn from the students.

Lesson Aims

  • Question formation
  • Interviews
  • Adjectives of personality
  • Modals for expressing preference

Stage One – Personality – 15 minutes

Show a picture of a celebrity – Justin Bieber, The Dalai Lama, Katy Perry – depending on your class and their tastes. Ask for a few adjectives describing that person’s personality. You may spark a mini-debate here.

Next give the class a few moments to think of three apt adjectives which would describe themselves. They can be positive or negative.

Ask the students to call them out and write the adjectives in two columns – under the headings of positive and negative. Once you have a good selection ask for opposites of the words you’ve listed, thus doubling the options.

The students can copy the list, if you like.

Next ask your students what qualities they would like potential housemates (roommates/flatmates) to have. You can circle the adjectives they name.

Stage Two – Creating a character 15-20 minutes*

This is an activity you may have come across in drama school or perhaps in a creative writing class.  It encourages imagination and allows the less creatively energetic students (PCGM) to come up with their own ideas without too much thinking.

Tell the students that they are going to create some people – all of whom are going to live together in a university residence. They are going to do this using clues – these clues are objects you found in the characters’ bags and pockets.

Write a list (prior to class is advisable… or this’ll be icky) of thirty to forty objects that could be found in a person’s bag. You’ll want a few normal items mixed in with some off-the-wall objects here’s a few to get you started:

  • lipstick

    Housemates of Big Brother 2 Hungary

    Would your students like to enter the Big Brother House?

  • eyeliner
  • hairbrush
  • a rosary
  • hand-gun
  • little black book
  • a tourist guide book
  • a pink wig
  • a bunch of grapes
  • a tennis ball
  • a torch
  • a bible
  • a ticket to a football match
  • a human finger
  • a photograph of an old woman, etc, etc, etc

Cut the words out and put them in a container of some sort. Ask your students to choose three pieces of paper at random. Obviously, the bigger the class, the more objects you’ll need. They are to decide who the person is based on the items they carry in their bag. They should do this character creation in pairs – and make one character per person in the class. I find that three items provides the optimum level of inspiration for the students.

Here’s an example below:

Pink wig / hand-gun / little black book

A clown who moonlights as a hitman.

A tourist guide book /A photograph of an old woman / a bunch of grapes

An old lady looking for her mother’s place of birth. She has no teeth and can only eat grapes.

You get the idea. With luck and a full-moon the students should be quite enthusiatic about creating this character.

Some books include Student Profile forms in their resources. You can find one in the the New English File Pre-intermediate Teacher’s book photocopiable activities. I usually ask my students to fill one out for their new character.

Next, each student should write a short paragraph introducing their person; they must use lots of personality adjectives, of course. They can read this out to the class.

*This is also a great activity to use in story-writing.

Stage Three – 15- 20 minutes

This is where the floor plan comes in. Hand it out to your students. Tell them that they are looking for a new housemate to join them in their university flat. First get them to decide which bedroom they would like and where they think the new housemate’s bedroom should be.

For more advanced groups, and if you have time, ask your students to write a short newspaper advert describing the flat (based on the plan).

It is a 3 bedroom apartment, facing the sea. It has a large living space…

You can collect these to mark later.

Then ask them to think of some questions that would be appropriate to ask a potentional housemate in an interview. These questions should begin with the following question words:

  • How
  • Do
  • When
  • What
  • Why
  • Are
  • Can
  • If

By giving the students these words, you force them to come up with a variety of questions. Weaker students tend to focus on question forms they are comfortable with. Make sure to monitor and correct your students as they think of these questions.

Stage Four – character mingle15 minutes

Using the questions they have written, the students should mingle and ask each other for their answers. They should do this in character. monitor this mingle and provide an error correction slot at the end.


Ask the students who, if any of the characters, they would decide to live with and why. You can also ask them the opposite question – you might find you get more vehement responses! You can do this as a whole class feedback activity. It’s hard to say exactly how long this will last.

Follow-up using the plan

Ask you students to design their perfect flat – using the floor plan you have provided. You can practise using modals here (I would like a…we should have a…we could build some…)

They should do this in groups and present their ideas to the rest of the class. You can hold a vote to see whose ideas are the best if you’re feeling competative.

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