It’s the end of the first week of school. The back-to-school jitters have worn off, the class expectations are clear, and the get-to-know-you activities are coming to a close. This can only mean one thing: Teaching content is near! But even after all of your games and icebreakers, you don’t know all of your students’ names and you definitely don’t know all of their strengths, goals, quirks, passions, and dreams! It’s almost time to teach your first ~real lesson~ but you feel like something is missing. You want to get to know your students on a deeper level and build some real class community before you dive into your content.
Can you relate? If so, I get it. This was precisely how I felt my first few years of teaching…before I found my favorite way to start the school year strong and really get to know my students.
THE SOLUTION: A PERSONALITY TEST
The solution: A Personality Test. No, not one of those ridiculous “What does your favorite pizza topping say about your personality? ones you can find on Buzzfeed. (I’m a pepperoni gal, so I’m caring and fun?? if you’re wondering.) Instead, I’m talking about a research-based personality test designed to help you understand yourself and how you fit in (or stand out) to the world around you.
Facilitating a personality test in the classroom is the perfect way to get to know your students as the complex, unique, and incredible human beings that they are. It’s also a great opportunity for students to become more self-aware as they reflect on who they are and who they want to be. You’ll find that the students’ reflections give you better “data” that any standardized test ever could. By the end of the process, your students will feel validated, understood, and celebrated, and your class will feel more like a community.
If you’re ready to get started, I recommend taking a few tests yourself (after reading the rest of this blog post, of course)! Specifically, I love using the online 16 Personalities test, but I’ve used others, like Personality Perfect. I have used the former in a high school setting, and the latter in middle school, because it’s short and simple. Please be aware that if you facilitate the 16 Personalities version, the results include a section on “Romantic Relationships,” so you’ll want students to skip that.
A QUICK NOTE ON USING A PERSONALITY TEST IN THE CLASSROOM:
I do not use personality tests to label, categorize, or define my students. Rather, I use the personality test to facilitate introspection. In other words, I use it to help students understand themselves and each other. I make all of this very clear before we begin the activity. I remind them that there are no right or wrong answers and no superior personality types. And I warn them that the results might be freakishly accurate, or they might be a little off. Either way, my goal is to help them think about who they are as human beings. And since that introspective process can be a little intimidating, we are just using the personality test as a springboard to help us do it!
With the right purpose, using a personality test in the classroom can be powerful, rewarding, and productive, especially at the beginning of the year. Thoughtfully-designed reflection activities, well-structured discussions, and purposefully-planned lessons will make all the difference. If you’re looking for a print- and digital-ready personality test reflection resource, you can find mine HERE. For more tips, ideas, and my top 10 reasons for using a personality test in the classroom, read on:
1. PROMOTE INTROSPECTION
A personality test provides the perfect opportunity for students to engage in self-reflection, a skill that’s especially important for adolescents who often forget to set aside time to think about themselves on a deeper level. To take advantage of this, I give my students a reflection activity to complete after they take the test. The reflection prompts them to consider their strengths and how they will nurture them and their weaknesses that they aim to improve. It also asks them to analyze the way their personality affects their approach to school, collaboration, and more. After students complete their individual reflections, I facilitate small-group and whole-group discussions so students can identify with their like-minded peers and learn more about how to work with those different from them. More on how I facilitate a personality test in the classroom in #9!
2. STRENGTHEN STUDENTS’ SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL SKILLS
Because a personality test prompts students to examine their emotions, traits, tendencies, relationships, and identity, reflecting on the results is a great exercise in social-emotional learning. This kind of learning is more important now than ever, as students return to school with increased social and emotional needs in the wake of the pandemic. According to the American Journal for Academic Health, social-emotional skills are linked to “key young adult outcomes across multiple domains of education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health.” While a personality test reflection is not a substitute for an SEL program, it’s a great opportunity to help students become more self-aware, a key component to social-emotional well-being.
3. ENCOURAGE GROWTH MINDSET AND GOAL-SETTING
While you can facilitate a personality test lesson year-round, I find that they work well at the beginning of the year because they help students embrace a growth mindset and set better goals for the rest of the year. The personality test results do a great job of offering practical advice for improving on personality-specific weaknesses and capitalizing on one’s strengths. With a new sense of self-awareness, students will be more encouraged to set achievable but challenging goals for themselves. I often follow-up my personality test reflection activity with goal-setting (or include goals in my back-to-school learning stations).
4. VALIDATE STUDENTS’ EMOTIONS & CELEBRATE THEIR UNIQUE PERSONALITIES
When the personality test gets it right (and it usually does), the results can be incredibly validating. All of the personality tests I’ve seen (but especially 16 Personalities) do a great job embracing one’s strengths and offering practical solutions for areas of growth. The results often let students know it’s okay to be who they are. It reminds them that it’s okay to be sensitive, introverted, independent, strong-willed, etc. and it shows them how their traits can be used as strengths. Oftentimes students realize that what they previously thought of as flaws can actually be considered strengths in certain areas or situations…which brings me to my next point.
5. HELP STUDENTS REALIZE THEIR POTENTIAL
The cool part about administering the personality test to students who are still learning and growing is that it can help them realize their full potential. The results may point to “hidden” or developing personality traits that students don’t even know they have. While I noticed this while teaching high school, I saw it even more with my 7th graders. I heard my fair share of students say things like, “The test said I’m a leader, but I don’t think I am” or “What?! I am NOT creative.”
Here’s the thing. The student who claimed she isn’t a leader? I can see that she is one of those quiet, natural leaders who leads by example…perhaps a future captain of her soccer team, always ready to exemplify good sportsmanship. The student who argued he isn’t creative? He totally is — just not in the traditional “artsy” view of creativity. Instead, he’s an innovator, a problem-solver, a creative thinker.
When I hear these exclamations, I try to help students see what they can’t see in themselves. All it takes is one person to help a student see themselves in a new light…like my 4th grade English teacher who told me I would write a book one day. (Guess who’s writing a book for Keeping the Wonder?)
6. GET TO KNOW YOUR STUDENTS ON A DEEPER LEVEL
I love facilitating get-to-know-you activities and fun icebreakers (like these virtual ones), but I also love to know more than what my students’ favorite colors, foods, and sports are. I want to know what they love, how they think, what energizes them, how they view the world, what they are passionate about, etc. In other words, I want to get to know them as the complex, incredible human beings they are. The problem is that most icebreakers (while fun and valuable in their own right) don’t go beyond the typical surface-level questions. Those icebreakers have their place, but a personality test can take things further so that you can really begin to understand your students.
7. BUILD CLASS COMMUNITY
In addition to building individual relationships with students, the personality test activity helps me cultivate classroom community from the start. Students not only learn about themselves, but they learn about how they fit into something bigger than themselves.
Because students are analyzing their personalities, it requires everyone to be a little bit vulnerable. While the personality test results do a great job of celebrating each individual’s strengths, they also highlight potential weaknesses, too. Admitting our weaknesses takes strength, vulnerability, and openness. But this kind of courage leads to growth, bonding, and community. I find that when I model this vulnerability and share my weaknesses with my students, they are more likely to open up. Before I have them take the test, I like to take time to share my results, what I learned, and how my personality impacts my teaching.
8. INFORM YOUR INSTRUCTION WITH QUALITATIVE DATA
Understanding who my students are as complex human beings gives me more meaningful data than any traditional assessment could. That’s why I love using a personality test at the beginning of the year. It helps me plan my instruction and tailor my lessons to my students. Here are some questions I can often answer better after facilitating a personality test in the classroom:
- What motivates my students? How can I find a way to reach all of the learners in my room?
- Which students/classes are more extroverted? More introverted? How can I use this information to tailor my instruction to the students in the room? Are students in Period 1 more introverted? Is 8th period full of extroverts? Can I adjust my instruction accordingly?
- How will my students approach group work? How can I use this knowledge to structure small-group work and other collaborative activities?
9. SPARK POWERFUL CLASS DISCUSSIONS
While the test itself is a valuable tool, what’s even more valuable are the rich class discussions that come after it. Once students take the test, they immediately want to talk about their results, compare them to their peers, and share out what they’ve learned. So I always promise them ample discussion time after they finish the independent reflection. This year, here’s how I framed that class discussion:
- First, students added their results and one important thing they learned to a class Padlet. The Padlet was organized with columns corresponding to the 4 personality groups (according to 16 Personalities). This provided a great visual representation of our class personality types and served as a springboard for our discussion.
- Then, I gave students 1-2 minutes to turn and talk to the people around them about what they learned.
- After that, I asked the class a few questions about what they learned and what was surprising to them. We talked about how we could apply our newfound insight. I also posed somewhat of a trick question to get students thinking and discussing! Should we work with people whose personality types are similar to ours, or people whose types are different? This generated a great discussion, and my students concluded (as I hoped) that we should do both. We might gravitate toward those who are similar and work with them on occasion, but we will challenge ourselves and learn even more when we combine our strengths with those who are different.
10. PRACTICE ESSENTIAL LITERACY SKILLS
Whether you teach English or another subject, taking & reflecting on a personality test requires students to exercise essential literacy skills. First, students have to read questions & think critically to answer them. Then, they have to read & comprehend the results, while taking note of what is most relevant to them. After that, they have to summarize the results, connect them to their personalities, and cite relevant evidence from the results. Then, students have to reflect on what they have learned and how it will impact them. And finally, students have to flex their speaking and listening skills during a class discussion. As you can see, the entire process covers multiple skills and standards, so it’s a great way to sneak in some content during the first few days of school.
I hope this post inspires you to try using a personality test in the classroom. Please let me know if you have any questions about using personality tests by leaving a comment below. If you’d like to check out my digital- and print-ready personality test reflection, you can find that HERE.
If you’re looking for other engaging, student-centered back-to-school ideas, then check out this post about flexible lessons that work for virtual or in-person learning. You also might be interested in this post with ideas and examples of what to include in a digital “Investigate the Teacher” activity.