Children love learning about animals, especially ones which are big, scary, colourful, wild, and potentially dangerous!

Jo Bertrand

Once you have them captivated by the subject you’ll find that they are more than eager to learn the English vocabulary needed to talk about it. There are hundreds of language focus points you can develop when doing topics on zoo animals. Here are just some ideas to get you started.


  • Introducing vocabulary for zoo animals – zebras, elephants, hippos, ostriches, tigers, lions, giraffes, monkeys, peacocks, bears, seals, penguins…
  • Colours, patterns and colour combinations – stripes, dots, spots, zig zags, multicoloured, black and white…
  • Modals – can, can't, must, mustn’t (as piece of vocabulary not as a grammar focus)
  • Zoo verbs – buy, touch, feed, listen, watch, eat, run, shout, stroke…


  • Map of the world
  • Silhouette coloured stickers of zoo animals
  • A3 copies of a zoo diagram
  • Zoo animals flashcards
  • Scarf to blindfold
  • Blu tack
  • Coloured card

Rules at the zoo

Pre-teach verbs such as feed, touch, buy, run, watch, shout, eat, stroke, etc, then brainstorm dos and don’ts at the zoo. Ideas include:

  • You can feed the ducks.
  • You mustn’t feed the lions.
  • You mustn’t touch the elephant.
  • You must buy a ticket.

You don’t need to go into the complex difference between all the modals. You can easily demonstrate the difference with how stern or relaxed you look when saying ‘You can feed the ducks’ (raise eyebrows and smile!), ‘You must buy a ticket’ (nod head and wag your finger) ‘You mustn’t feed the lions’ (look horrified, shake head and pull a stern face!).

You can make a class poster of rules. You can also adapt this idea for more advanced pupils and make up opposite, rebel rules such as ‘You must eat lots of ice-cream.’ ‘You must stroke the lion!’ Make sure they understand that these are opposite rules though! To help you explain take the rules you’ve already created and make them into opposites before letting the children use their imaginations!

Design your own zoo

Ask pupils questions such as:

  • If they ran the zoo what changes would they make?
  • What animal should go where?
  • Should the bears go next to the fish?
  • Why shouldn’t the snakes be in the same cage as the birds?…

Then draw a simple plan of a zoo with the word zoo written at the bottom, middle of the page on a gate.

  • Around the page you can draw several cages.
  • Photocopy onto A3 and distribute to small groups or pairs.
  • Each pair should have cut outs or stickers of animals that they can move around the page until they are satisfied with their allocation of animals into the cages.
  • They should think about noises each animals makes, what they eat, whether they need a very cold cage or a very hot cage etc.
  • Make your own before the class and demonstrate your logic before they attempt this quite challenging task.

What do zoo animals eat?

Study the different types of food that zoo animals eat. Part of the fun of going to a zoo is watching the animals being fed. Discover how often they should be fed and what exactly they eat:

What noises do they make?

You may find that where you teach the animals make different noises to English ones! This is generally true of farm and domestic animals (cats, dogs, cows, ducks, etc) but see if any zoo animals make different noises. The children will love making the noises to compare to English zoo animal noises.

Where do they come from?

  • It’s important to put the animals into their original context and to not just present them as living in zoos.
  • You could construct a class map of the world and stick silhouette stickers of zoo animals on the countries they comes from. Have colour codes for different continents.

Colours of the zoo

  • Animals and birds such as parrots, pink flamingos, giraffes, lions, zebras etc are a great way of learning new colours and pattern vocabulary such as stripes, dots, zigzags, multicoloured etc. You could draw outlines of the animals for the children to fill in with the correct colours and patterns. Easily adapted to younger learners.

Mother and babies

What does a zoo keeper do?

Zoo games

  • Sleeping lions – great for the end of a lesson as a calming activity. Everyone has to put their heads in their folded arms on their desks and keep as still as possible. If they move they are out!
  • Stick the tail on the elephant  - draw a large picture of the back of an elephant. Blindfold the children, gently spin them around and urge them into the direction of the elephant poster holding the tail of the elephant with a piece of Blu tack. Draw a number next to where they put the tail, have a number per pupil and see who’s the closet at the end of the game.
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