Survey Says…Using Comparatives and Superlatives to Talk about People

Survey Says…Using Comparatives and Superlatives to Talk about People

English speakers use comparative adjectives to talk about everything and everyone around them.

We compare adults and children, native speakers and internationals, northerners and southerners. Everyone is fair game when it comes to comparisons. The activities listed here focus on using comparative and superlative adjectives to talk about people. Whether those people are celebrities or the students in your classroom, your students will have to be creative and quick thinking as they talk about who is good, better, and best.

Practice Degrees of Comparison Talking about People

  1. 1

    Celebrity Duel

    Have each person in your class choose a picture of a celebrity for this one on one show down. Divide your class into two teams; each team should make sure everyone on the team has chosen a different celebrity. Have each team choose their first player, and have that person keep their pictures secret. On each person’s turn, they will make statements about their celebrity comparing that person to the other player’s celebrity. On your word, both students show their pictures to each other and to the rest of the class. One person starts by making a comparative statement about the two celebrities. (Anne Hathaway is more elegant than Cindy Lauper.) Then the other student makes a comparative statement. (Cindy Lauper is funnier than Anne Hathaway.) The duel continues one sentence at a time until one person cannot think of a comparative sentence for the two celebrities. When that happens, the other person wins the round and scores a point for his or her team. Once everyone has had a turn, the team with the most points wins.

  2. 2

    Picture Perfect

    Do you have any artists in your class? This activity will challenge students to not only draw but to use comparative adjectives to direct the best picture. Put students into pairs, and give one person in that pair a picture of a person. If you did the celebrity showdown activity, you can use those pictures again, or you can use photos of people in the class or advertisements featuring people. The person holding the picture will describe that person to his partner. The partner should then draw that celebrity using the descriptions of her partner. As the first student gives his description, he should use comparative adjectives to direct and correct the picture his partner is drawing. For example, the nose should be longer, make the mouth wider, the ears are higher on the head…After five to ten minutes, show everyone’s drawing and have the class decide whose picture is closest to the original. Then give out another set of pictures, this time to the people who did the drawing in the first round, and have students reverse roles.

  3. 3

    Comparing Careers

    This activity uses a set of career flashcards to compare people with one another. Any cards that have pictures of people would work, though, and you can make your own people cards using index cards and pictures or stickers. Put students in pairs, and give each pair ten career flashcards. The challenge is to put these cards in a sequence using a comparative sentence to link each card to the next. Students can only use a given adjective once in their connections. For example, if I was connecting a doctor, a teacher, a salesman, and a librarian, I might use the following comparative sentences. A doctor is smarter than a babysitter. A babysitter is nicer than salesman. A salesman is more talkative than a librarian. Students can put the people in any order as long as they can make comparative sentences to connect them and all ten connect in one direction once the sentences are complete. Once students have competed their sequences, have them share their cards (a great vocabulary review) and their comparisons with the class.

  4. 4

    Artists Among Us

    How accurately do your students picture themselves? Do they think of themselves as they really are? Hand out drawing materials and ask each person to draw a self-portrait without looking at themselves (in a mirror, with their phones, etc.). Tell students to make the drawings as accurate as possible. Once students have completed their drawings, have them look in a mirror or take a picture of themselves to see what they really look like. Then have students share the differences between their self-portrait and their photo with a partner. As they share, they should compare their real self with their portrait self using comparative or superlative adjectives. (E.g. My nose is bigger in my drawing than in real life. My eyes are bluer in the photo.)

  5. 5

    The Weekend Me

    What do your students do to relax on the weekends? Are they very different on Saturdays and Sundays from their Monday through Friday selves? Ask your students to make a list of at least ten ways they are different on the weekend and then use that list to write ten comparative sentences about themselves. Each sentence should contain a comparative adjective as well as the reason for the difference. Students might write sentences like the following. I am more relaxed on the weekend because I sleep more. I am more active on the weekend because I go for a run every morning. (This activity is also a good opportunity to review the difference between independent clauses and dependent clauses and how to punctuate them.)

  6. 6

    Running for President

    Not many of your students will run for president in their home countries, but everyone can have a chance to run for class president for a day. Tell your students that everyone in class will be running for the one day class presidency, and each person’s task is to convince their fellow students that they are the best person for the job. Give your students some time to prepare, and then choose them in random order to give their election speech in front of the class. Each person should have three minutes to convince the class to vote for them by comparing themselves to the rest of the members of the class. They should use as many comparative adjectives in their speech as possible. Remind students, though, that they will be comparing themselves to the same people that will be voting, so they should choose their comparisons carefully. Once everyone has given their campaign speech, hold a secret ballot and see who has won the presidency for the day. Let the president choose a fun theme for the following day: wear your pajamas to school, backwards day, blue day, etc.

Do you have a favorite activity that compares one person to another?

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