Teaching animal vocabulary to kids is always a hit, but don’t forget that teen and adult learners need to learn these words too. It can be challenging to think of ways to introduce basic vocabulary in memorable ways that aren’t too childish.
Here are some fun ideas for using ESL Library’s updated Animals & Wildlife set (180+ images) that will appeal to all ages.
Challenge your students to come up with a list of comparative adjectives (quicker, wiser, stronger, more clever, more dangerous), and write them on the board. Ask one student to choose two faced down flashcards from the pile of Animals & Wildlife flashcards and one adjective from the board. The student will then try to form a question for the class using these words: Who is stronger, a duck or a chipmunk? The class will vote, discuss, and declare the winner.
Animal Poetry Café
Hand out two or three animal flashcards to each student or small group and have your students write limericks about these animals. If you have any artists in your classroom, get them to illustrate the poems. Then hold a poetry café with refreshments and invite everyone to read their poems!
There once was a chimpanzee
Who was married to a flea
He was also in love
with a gorgeous dove
who was wed to a bumblebee
There once was a pig named Chub
who spent too much time at the pub
His best friend the bear
had a smell that was rare
and needed a soak in the tub
See How to Write a Poem for instructions on writing limericks and other poetry, such as haiku and acrostic poems.
Your students may have trouble giving up their translators and dictionaries, and this can be a fun way to let them use these devices. Hold up an animal card and allow students to look it up in their own language. The first person to race to the board, write the word down properly in English, and pronounce it correctly gets to keep the flashcard. (You may need to restrict this to two students at the board at one time.) The person who collects the most animals can be crowned The Zookeeper.
After about ten animals, collect the cards and play again without translators. This time it might be quicker, so you may want to get students to raise their hands so you can choose who gets to run to the board. Will The Zookeeper be replaced?
It doesn’t matter how old your students are, they will still have fun telling you what sounds animals make in their own language. You will need to choose common animals from the flashcard sets (horse, cow, pig, dog, cat, bird, frog, wolf). Hold up a flashcard and ask your students to make the animal sound in their own native language. Then tell them what sound their animal makes in English.
You are sure to get a lot of laughs (especially in a multilingual classroom), so you might want to have a video recorder handy. You could also ask your students to make a selfie video comparing one or more animal sounds in their native language and in English.
This a pig. [Holding up flashcard image.]
In English a pig says oink-oink.
In Japanese a pig says boo-boo..
What Am I?
Find out if your students know the names of some animals, birds, and insects by playing this guessing game. Invite one student to the front of the room. Show this student an animal flashcard from the set, but don’t show the rest of the class. (Make sure that you have printed the flashcards with the vocabulary word on it.) The student will then come up with 3–5 sentences about the creature without saying the word. I am an insect. I am a hard-worker. I live in hills. What am I?
Alternatively, this can be done for homework. As your students walk out the door at the end of the day, give each of them an animal flashcard to use for their “What am I?” homework. Remind your students not to show each other which animal they received.
Print enough animal flashcards so that each student can have one. For homework, tell your students they must find one interesting fact about their animal to share in class the following day. Encourage your students to check more than one source to make sure their facts are true! You may want to explain how to use the sentence Did you know…?
Take your adult learners outdoors for some bird watching. How many different types of birds can they spot?
When you come back into the classroom, ask some follow up questions by holding up flashcards from the Birds set. E.g., Did we see a cardinal? No. Have you ever seen a cardinal? Yes. Did we see a blue jay? No. Have you ever seen a blue jay? Yes. Did we see a seagull? Yes. Where did we see seagulls? At the park. Where have you seen a flamingo? At the zoo. What colour are flamingos? Pink.
Try to concentrate on about 10 birds at a time, and review the words regularly by asking lots of questions.
Print a number of animal flashcards from different sets and spread them all out on the floor or on a large table. Have your students come up in small groups (one group at a time) to sort the animal cards into different categories. Tell each group to write down the categories they chose. You can make a maximum number of categories, such as four. Or, you can tell them the categories have to be animal kingdoms or adjectives or countries, etc.
What categories did each group come up with? Write the categories on the board. Then ask students to fill the board with all of the animal, birds, and insects they can think of. Shout them flashcards of some obscure animals that they may not know in English, such as armadillo or ostrich. Make a fun rule that each animal can only go in one category. Your students can fight over which category best fits each animal (cute or dangerous or zoo animal).
Animals are inspiring creatures! Get your students to make some posters for your class with inspirational quotes. Give each student a sheet of paper that has one image from the ESL Library Animals & Wildlife set on it. (Note: Flashcard files may not be posted onto any public or private web server or application. You may, however, use the flashcards to make your own materials for classroom use. Log in and drag a flashcard to a blank document. Print!)
Challenge your students to find an inspirational (or funny) quote to add to their animal image and display in the classroom or hallway.
We hope our NEW Animals & Wildlife flashcard set inspires you to go beyond pigs, horses, and cows. Share your own ideas below!