your position in the family

 In Emotional Intelligence in ESL classrooms


«Your position in the family» is a multipurpose activity for B1 students to practice speaking skills at the time students learn new personality adjectives. The final result is always quite an impact for everyone as classmates find out they have much more in common than their interest in the language!



So beginning a new academic year with a brand new textbook we came across this interesting radio interview [ [Lesson 1B] about how your position in the family can really tell about your character.

The author: Linda Blair

The book: Birth Order

The content: Personality adjectives


Before listening to the interview I asked students to sit in four different groups following their position in the family: oldest children, middle children, youngest children, and only children. Then listen and pay attention to the adjectives describing each group of children for note-taking.

When a chart has been completed and checked with adjectives of personality for each type of child they are invited to discuss whether or not they agree with the definitions and give examples. For instance, «I agree with middle children learning to be diplomatic because I very often had to mediate between by eldest sister and my younger ones being a middle child myself» or «I don’t agree with oldest children being authoritarian, at least I am not!».

Conversation served up. Students ended up finding out they had had similar anecdotes in their families, which they were happy to share, and similar hobbies and interests which they could discuss for long. We actually also got an idea of the type of persons attending lessons in this group this year. The biggest group was joined by «youngest children» in vast majority.

Most shocking of all, as it happens, was finding the only ONE CHILD in the group sitting at this desk all on his own repeating the words: «the story of my life!«.


To complement the Listening Comprehension exercise you might like to present excerpts from Jane Nelsen’s Positive Discipline chapter «The significance of Birth Order» . Try the dynamics and see what happens… not only does it have quite a visual impact but most important of all «Getting to know each other» during first days at school seems really easy.



Birth order and Teaching styles



With no intention whatsoever to use this to label or stereotype I would like to take the opportunity to expand the topic and introduce this very interesting piece of information I read about Birth Order and Teaching styles. It has certainly helped me increase my understanding of students and of myself as a teacher, learn methods, and enhance areas that might have been left unknowingly unattended.



Following Jane Nelsen, Ed. D., teaching styles may vary because of birth order:

  • Teachers who are oldest children often like to be in charge. They are often willing to organise interesting and complicated projects for their students. They prefer structure and order and are happiest when students are sitting in neat rows doing as they have been told.


  • Teachers who are middle children are often as interested in the psychological well-being of their students as they are in academic achievement. They are drawn to the rebellious students and hope to influence them in a more positive direction. These teachers try to achieve order through mutual respect and understanding.
  • Teachers who are youngest children are often creative and fun-loving and have the easiest time adjusting to noise and disorder. These teachers are often willing to allow students to take more responsibility.
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