Animals have a near universal appeal to young children. Whether it is dinosaurs or horses, there is something with our furry friends that connects directly with our hearts.
For that reason, if your ESL class is composed of elementary aged students, they are bound to have fun with these activities that bring the wild world of animals into the ESL classroom.
How to Bring the Wild World of Nature into Your ESL Classroom
A Healthy Environment
The environment in which animals live can directly affect their ability to survive. With man’s ever-expanding habitat, some animals are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to having a healthy place to live. You can challenge your students to examine how healthy their own worlds are for the wild animals that live along side them. As a class, keep a list of all the different types of animals you see over a two week period. As students see animals at home or in their neighborhoods, ask them to jot down what they saw. The next day in class, add any new animals to your list. You should take advantage of the natural opportunity for your students to learn new vocabulary for animals and birds. Going over the list each day of the two weeks will also help cement that new vocabulary into their minds. Once you have your list, ask your students to examine whether the environments in which these animals live are healthy ones. They should look for and think about things like pollution, trash, food and water sources and places for the animals to live. As a class, decide on a service project that you can do to help make the environment friendlier to wild animals. You may decide to have a cleanup day or make food or shelter available to the animals that you live with. As an extension, encourage your students to think of other ways they can be kind to the animals around them.
As ESL students, there is always a drive to expand one’s vocabulary, and when it comes to wild animals there are almost always new words to be found. You can use this unique set of wild animal English words in a Memory style game with your students. Assign each student a partner and then direct the pair to this list of animals, which specifies names for the male, female and baby as well as the collective noun for a group of those animals. Ask each pair to choose ten animals from the list and write down the animal with its collective noun, the word used to refer to a group. Once each pair has chosen their animals, explain to them that the words used to refer to a group of each animal are called collective nouns. Some collective nouns are general (like group which can be used with people, pigs or cars as well as many other words) while other collective nouns are specific to the noun that they describe (like a pride of lions but never a pride of frogs). They should not confuse collective nouns with noncount nouns, which cannot be counted individually. (You cannot say ‘I have one furniture in my living room’ or ‘there is one rice on the table’.) Collective nouns are used with count nouns (one lion, two lions) to refer to a group of those individuals. Once your students understand what a collective noun is, give each pair twenty index cards to make their games. They should write the name of each animal on one card and the collective noun which is used with that animal on another card. Have groups shuffle their cards and then lay them out on a desk in a grid arrangement. Students should take turns looking at two cards, turning each of the cards over so the other can see what is written there. If the students turn over a noun and its matching collective noun, he keeps the pair of cards. Whoever has the most cards at the end of the game is the winner. To give students an even greater challenge, have them exchange cards with another pair of students in the class and see how many matches they can make with the new set of animals.
I Want a Hippopotamus
In 1953, Gayla Peevey charmed listeners with the song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” The song was written from the perspective of a child who was trying to convince her parents that she should be able to have a hippo for a pet. Ask your students to imagine that a hippopotamus followed them home from school one day, and they want to keep that hippo as a pet as well. What reasons would they give to convince their parents to keep him? Groups your students into discussion groups of three to four to talk about reasons they might give for keeping a hippopotamus as a pet. If your students get stuck, play the song for them for inspiration. If you like, have your students write a persuasive letter to their parents listing the reasons they think a hippo would make a good pet and refuting the objections they think their parents might have. For fun, you may want to invite parents to write letters to their children, depending on their levels of English, with their responses and post these in the classroom!
These are only a few of the ways that you can bring the wild world of nature into your ESL classroom.
Your students will enjoy learning about animals while they increase their vocabulary and improve speaking and writing skills. If you find that your class is particularly interested in one of these subjects, take it a step further by assigning some research and ask for speeches on specific animals. Science and English never went so well together as when animals enter the ESL classroom, and your class is sure to have a roaring good time with it!