What’s Your Birth Order? A Conversation Activity

birth orderI found this great high intermediate/advanced level conversation activity, What’s Your Birth Order, on Dave’s ESL Cafe, a popular online resource for ESL teachers.   We started the activity by having the students group themselves according to the order of their birth in one of each of the four corners of the classroom.  They discussed what it was like growing up either as the only children, oldest children, middle children or  “the babies,”  the youngest children of the family.  (Unfortunately, I only had one student who was an only child, so she met with the firstborns.)   There was a lot of discussion as to the pros and cons of being born in each order of the family and about what others’ expectations were of them because of that order.  After each group gave its ideas, students from the other groups either agreed or disagreed with or added to what they said citing their own experiences with their siblings. It made for lively discussion!  Everyone quickly realized that there were more similarities than differences regardless of the culture they were born into. The only exception we found was with regard to whom the responsibility fell upon for the care of elderly parents.  A Polish woman said it fell on the eldest daughter while a woman from Mexico said it was the responsibility of the youngest daughter.
After this discussion, students watched a short presentation on Birth Order which gave characteristics generally in agreement with the students’ assessments.  It also included famous people born into each group.  This presentation was rich with new vocabulary that the students embraced because they could use it to describe themselves!
As an extension exercise, students accessed online birth order personality quizzes to see what other traits are attributed to them because of their birth order. They discussed their findings in small groups, and, of course, agreed or disagreed.
In conclusion, this activity generated a lot of new vocabulary in a lively conversation that continued in the hallways after class and in the students’ homes and in mine as well!  Other teachers remarked on how much the students seemed to enjoy the lesson since they continued to talk about it with them in their classrooms.
babysmileA humorous side note:  After the students had grouped themselves, we noticed that on that particular day, the only/oldest children were dressed primarily in gray, the middle children were dressed primarily in black and white, and the youngest (myself included!) were dressed primarily in white.  Yes, that was a coincidence, but the timing couldn’t have been better!

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