The Internet TESL Journal

Teaching Character Words by Using Zodiac Signs

Mei-hsiu Lai
De Lin Institute of Technology (Tucheng, Taiwan)
Zodiac Signs have become very popular worldwide.  Whether you believe it or not, astrology is a truly good conversation starter and is good teaching material in English language classrooms.  We can get students to read, think, talk and write about themselves and other people by using signs. Here, I would like to offer a few learning activities to help students build up character words more easily and quickly increase their ability to describe other people’s personalities.


Teaching character words is always a challenging task for teachers because these words are abstract; that is, they exist in our thoughts or ideas but do not have a physical or practical existence.  It is not fun or wise for teachers to present students with a long list of character words and ask them to memorize them and wait for a quiz.  Diligent students do take a lot of time and efforts to put them into their memory but forget them in a really short time. Working with prepared activities provides students with very good opportunities to expand their knowledge of character words and meanings

The Lesson

Level: Intermediate

Aim: Developing and broadening knowledge of character words

Step 1.  Prepare a handout of Zodiac-sign descriptions like the following.

Capricorn (December 22—January 19)
--Positive personality traits: responsible, persistent, disciplined, calm
--Negative personality traits: pessimistic, conservative, shy

Aquarius (January 21—February 19)
--Positive personality traits: inventive, clever, humanitarian, friendly
--Negative personality traits: aloof, unpredictable, rebellious

Pisces (February19—March 20)
--Positive personality traits: romantic, devoted, compassionate
--Negative personality traits: indecisive, escapist, idealistic

Aries (March 21—April 20)
--Positive personality traits: generous, enthusiastic, efficient
--Negative personality traits: quick-tempered, selfish, arrogant

Taurus (April 21—May 20)
--Positive personality traits: reliable, stable, determined
--Negative personality traits: possessive, greedy, materialistic

Gemini (May 21—June 21)
--Positive personality traits: witty, creative, eloquent, curious
--Negative personality traits: impatient, restless, tense

Cancer (June 22—July 22)
--Positive personality traits: intuitive, nurturing, frugal, cautious
--Negative personality traits: moody, self-pitying, jealous

Leo (July 23—August 22)
--Positive personality traits: confident, independent, ambitious
--Negative personality traits: bossy, vain, dogmatic

Virgo (August 23—September 22)
--Positive personality traits: analytical, practical, precise
--Negative personality traits: picky, inflexible, perfectionist

Libra (September 23—October 22)
--Positive personality traits: diplomatic, easygoing, sociable,
--Negative personality traits: changeable, unreliable, superficial

Scorpio (October 23—November 21)
--Positive personality traits:  passionate, resourceful, focused
--Negative personality traits: narcissistic, manipulative, suspicious

Sagittarius (November 22—December 21)
--Positive personality traits: optimistic, adventurous, straightforward
--Negative personality traits: careless, reckless, irresponsible

Step 2. Find out which sign of the zodiac students were born under.

Distribute worksheets to all students.  Ask them to complete the first two sentences.
Q1. I was born on __________________ (birth date).
Q2. I am a/an ____________________ (sign).
(Sample Answer: I was born on May 26th.  I am a Gemini.)

Step 3. Do you agree or do you disagree with these personality description words?

Have students read the strength keywords and the weakness keywords of their own sign.  Make sure the students have access to a good dictionary.  Allow them to think for a while. Read the third and fourth questions on the worksheet.  Before students write their answers, tell them there are no correct or incorrect answers.

Q3. Which two traits do you think are true about you?  List a reason for each.
(1)    I am __________.
(2)    I am __________.
(Sample Answer: I am creative.  I hate old and repeated stuff.  I love everything presented in its unique and fresh style.)

Q4. Which two traits about you do you think are false? List a reason for each.
(1)    I am not __________.
(2)    I am not __________.
(Sample Answer: I am not tense.  I always feel relaxed in my daily life.)

Step 4.  Share with Peers (1)

Pair up the students. Don’t pair up students with the same signs.  Ask them to introduce the characteristics of their own sign to their partners.  Either reciting or retelling the handout information is OK.

Step 5.  Share with Peers (2)

Each student should tell his/her partner the reason why he/she agrees or disagrees with the description words by using the answers written on the worksheet.  While they are listening to their partner, they may complete questions 5-8.

Q5. My partner was born on ______________.(birth date)
Q6. He is a/an ______________.(sign)
Q7. My partner is _______ and ________.
Reasons: __________________________________________.
Q8. My partner is not __________or ___________.
Reason: ___________________________________________.

Step 6.  Share with Peers (3)

Divide students up into small groups and ask them to report about their partners’ personality traits to the group.

Step 7.  Collaboration Task (1)

After the report, students can think about these questions.
Then take turns exchanging opinions with group members.

Step 8.  Collaboration Task (2)

Make each group collaborate to choose five character words to portray a teacher, a celebrity, or a person known by all classmates.  Then the teacher can pick any one from each group to report their portrayed character.  Tell the whole class why they choose these five words to describe the target person.  A second member or a third from the same group might be asked to give more supporting details of their portrayed one.

Step 9.  Follow–up Homework: Personality Profile

Choose a member of your family.  Categorize character words to describe this family member. Remember this homework is about the vocabulary we use to describe "personality"—what people are like not in their physical appearance, but in the way they naturally think and act.  The worksheet can be designed as follows.

Personality Profile of My Sister

1.    How would you describe your sister in terms of:
(a)    ability: sharp and talented
(b)    attitudes toward study/work: devoted and reliable
(c)    attitudes toward life: optimistic and calm
(d)    attitudes toward people: sociable and patient

2.    Name a weakness that you would like to advise your sister about and explain why you would like her to change it?

3.    Name a strong point that you think your sister possesses.  Explain how this strong point has helped her in her daily life.


Studying zodiac signs and personality traits are a great way to increase the students' vocabulary of character words.  These lessons put an emphasis on familiarizing students with these words by different learning tasks which incorporate the four skills—Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.  These activities are designed to help the student remember abstract vocabulary items by associating their meanings with a familiar person's behaviors and then creating an interconnection between the words and the personality traits.  These activities initiate deeper processing, analyzing, and elaboration of the words and their definitions

Through these exercises students can recognize and recall the character words more easily, comprehend them in the text more accurately, retain them longer in their memory and use them more appropriately and effectively in language production.

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XIV, No. 10, October 2008