Children love units connected with animals and farm animals can provide lots of fun opportunities to practise sounds and phonics.

Jo Bertrand


  • Learning farm vocabulary: pig, sheep, cow, horse, chicken, hen, dogs, cat, goat, duck, rabbit, farmer, farm, stable, hay, grass, milk, eggs
  • Learning animal noises: quack, moo, miaow, woof, neigh, squawk, baa, etc
  • Learning greetings language: ‘How do you do?’ ‘My name is…’ ‘Pleased to meet you.’
  • Studying action verbs such as ‘eat’, ‘make’, ‘lay’, ‘go to bed’, ‘go to sleep’
    • telling the time
    • prepositions of place such as ‘behind’, in front of , next to…
  • Other language areas phonetics inspired by sounds found in the song ‘Old MacDonald had a farm’

Counting sheep (Age: 7+)
In Britain and other western cultures you can 'count sheep' to help you fall asleep. Find out if your pupils do the same thing.

  • Find out what time they go to bed and then what time they go to sleep. This can be used for a class survey.
  • They can ask other people in the class and then feedback on a class chart the results.
  • They will practise two questions ‘What time do you go to bed?’ and ‘What time to you go to sleep?’ while also practising the time – ‘At eight o’clock.’ ‘At half past eight.’
  • Draw a picture of a child asleep in bed with a dream cloud above her head and a row of sheep. You can use this to practise numbers with the children counting the number of sheep. Get them to imagine an actual dream and draw it on their picture.

Babe - Video work (Age: 10+)
Using video in class can change the pace and captivate your group of children. Excerpts you use should not be too long. A few minutes of film accompanied by language work can be much more interesting and effective than an hour and a half of watching the television with no objective other than filling in time.

  • Play the first few minutes of the film with no sound.
  • Get the children to feedback on what they saw. What do they think the film is about? A pig, a teacher or a child? Provide multiple choices to guide them.
  • In the first ten minutes of the film you have some scenes on the farm. Use these sequences to do some animal recognition work. They could then listen to the extract and then the older primary pupils could even make up a short dialogue between Babe and Fly, the sheep dog who ‘adopts’ Babe, the first time they meet. This could be a greetings conversation.

Animals and animal sounds (Age: 4+)
Provide the flashcards yourself or spend a little time with the children making a flashcard each. Laminate flashcards so you can use them again and again.

  • Put the children into pairs and distribute flashcards of about ten farm animals.
  • One person holds up a card without being able to see it themselves.
  • Their partner must make the noise the animal makes for the person who’s holding the card to be able to guess the animal.
  • They should be familiar with at least some of the names. You can fill in the gaps as you monitor.


The Farmer’s in his Den – new words (Age: 5+)
This can be done as a sitting down song if space is limited or as a circle with designated farmers and animals.

  • It is more interesting for the children if you change the words of this song. It allows for many more animals.
  • Try using a different animal for each verse and include either the noise they make or what they eat or do on the farm.
  • The children can mime the animals as they join the central group of children. e.g.
    • The hens lay an egg
    • The rabbits like carrots
    • The cows make the milk
    • The horses eat the hay
    • The sheep eat the grass

Three little ducks
This is another popular song that you can tie in with your farm unit. Make sure you use props (rubber ducks), finger movements or bodily actions to act out this song. It’s repetitive enough that the children very quickly pick it up and enjoy participating.

Three little ducks went swimming one day
Over the hills and far away
But only two little ducks came back.

Two little ducks went swimming one day
Over the hills and far away
But only one little duck came back.

One little duck went swimming one day
Over the hills and far away
But now no little ducks came back.

No little ducks went swimming one day
Over the hills and far away
And all three little ducks came back.

Old Macdonald had a farm
No farm unit would be complete without this classic song that children love to sing. The chorus with ‘ee i ee i oh’ lends itself particularly well to introducing phonetic work.

  • You can split the board into three columns and put the three phonetic sounds at the top of the columns.
  • Together you can build up a picture gallery of words with the same sound in them. In can be things you find on a farm (difficult), just words in English they know (easier), or provide them with a list of farm words which they have to place in the correct group (the most controlled version).
  • With the very young learners content yourself with singing the song with them. Give groups different animal sounds to do.

Art work - Farm scene
Draw an empty farm scene and photocopy it.

  • The children can stick or draw small flashcards of animals onto their farm scene. You tell them where the animals go, they listen and stick.
  • You can use this activity to practise recognition of prepositions of place such as next to, behind, in front of etc.

Internet links

The LearnEnglish Kids website has lots of activities related to farm animals:


Language Level


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