Lions and tigers and bears, what do they mean? They mean tons of fun for your ESL class. With the following activities, your students can go on a safari, make predictions, or plan an unusual meal, all without leaving the classroom, so what are you waiting for? It is time to go wild!
Try These Animal Activities for Your Next ESL Lesson
What is wilder than a box full of animal crackers? The iconic childhood snack, which was introduced by the National Biscuit Company on December 16, 1902, was originally made with a white string attached to the box. Can any of your students guess why that might be? As a class, brainstorm a list of possible reasons for the string. Once all of your ideas are up on the board, have the class vote on which they think is the most likely reason for the string. After the vote, enlighten your class with the true reason – the string was included so the box could be hung from a Christmas tree!
Your students may or may not have had animal crackers, but provided you have no allergies among your students, you can use the inexpensive snacks to practice using the future tense. Ask each person to make predictions as to what animals she will find in the carnival box. What animals will be inside? Which animal will be the most common? Which animal will be the least common? What animals will not be in the box at all? After you have given individuals some time to think about their answers, pair your students to share their predictions with one another. Now is the time to see how many predictions were true. Give each pair a box of animal crackers and have them tally up which animals were inside and how many of each there were. Allow each pair to share their findings with another pair (making groups of four) this time using the past tense. Each pair should also say whether their predictions were accurate. Of course, you should finish the activity with snack time!
A Photo Safari
How much do your students know about safaris? Most often, the word safari is used to refer to a journey to Africa. In past times, a safari was a hunting trip in which men and women pursued big game, animals that were not available to hunt in their native locations. Today, however, the concept of a safari has shifted from hunting to observation. Many people take trips each year to observe big game animals in their natural habitats and take pictures of them rather than hunt them. In this sense, a photo safari is a trip to take pictures of unusual snippets of life that a person would otherwise not have exposure to. Since many ESL students have travelled from overseas in their pursuit of the language, their trip has some resemblance to a safari. They are in a foreign environment seeing life in totally new ways. As students study English in a foreign country, they will inevitably experience culture and life in different ways from those they are used to. You can encourage your students to take a “photo safari” of their overseas experience as they go through a day or two in their lives. Start by giving them some background on what a photo safari is and what purpose it has. You may also want your students to do some research on this type of trip either by watching videos that tourists have posted (there are many available on YouTube.com) or reading blogs or informational articles on photo safaris.
Once your students have some understanding of a photo safari, ask each person to document his or her daily life though photographs, similar to what tourists would do on a safari. Each person should take as many pictures as he or she would like as long as each part of the day is recorded. After a day or two of this documentation, take some class time to examine the photographs. You may want to have willing students share information about the pictures they took. Point out that they should generally use past tenses when they share their information. Afterwards, have each student use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast his personal journalistic photos with what participants in a photo safari might have recorded. Finally, ask each person to write a short piece explaining whether or not he would like to participate in a photo safari and why.
Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
Since English is not the first language of your students, they may not be familiar with the words herbivore, omnivore and carnivore. Write each of these words on the board and tell your students that the words refer to what types of food different animals eat. Tell your class that human beings are omnivores and that they eat both animal and vegetable products. Then ask if anyone would like to guess what types of foods the other two groups eat. After defining herbivore and carnivore for your students, see if the class can think of any animals that fit into each of the categories. You may want to list lions and tigers under the word ‘carnivore’, giraffes and rhinoceros under the ‘herbivore’ category.
Now that your students are familiar with what some animals eat, have each person plan a party menu for one animal, either one you have classified or another that he chooses. Each person should do some research to see what types of food his animal prefers before planning the menu. Finally, using various take out menus as a guide, have each student write a menu for the party honoring his animal. You can also ask each person to make an illustration for the front of his menu. If possible, laminate the menu with its illustrated cover and place them all in a slot to which your students have access. Allow your class to browse the menus during free reading time.
From animal cookies to what animals themselves eat, this is only the start of the wild animal activities you can do with your ESL class.
With language as the focus and wild life as the means, your students will improve their vocabulary, increase their speaking fluency and generally improve their ability to use the English language. Not only that, they will feel grrrrrrrrrrrreat about what they have learned!