TEFL Lesson Plans



Usually when we think of animals and teaching English we think of children and Elementary levels. This lesson plan will focus on the ways in which we use animals in idiomatic ways and in similes when speaking informally. Many higher-level students feel that the way to speak better English is through idioms and multi verb forms. This lesson plan seeks to do just that.

Upper Intermediate to Advanced

Lesson Length:
There should be enough material here for a lesson lasting 60 – 90 minutes


Discussion Questions:
There are many ways to introduce the topic of animals. Here is a brief list of questions you may wish to ask your learners:

1. Do you have a pet? / Have you ever had a pet?
2. What do you have? / What did you have? / What would you like?
3. What’s its name?
4. Are you interested in keeping pets? Why?
5. What ‘s so good about keeping pets?
6. Can you quickly name 5 domestic animals?
7. What are the problems with keeping pets?
8. Which pet in your opinion is the easiest to keep?
9. Which in your opinion is the most difficult to keep?
10. Do you think that pets provide emotional support for the owner?
11. Do you think that some owners spend too much money on their pets?
12. Do you think that some owners treat their pets as humans?
13. Do you think that animals belong in a house with adults and children?

Treatment of animals:
1. Can you name five animals that are in danger of becoming extinct?
2. What do you think about the way that animals are used in scientific experiments?
3. Have you ever been to a zoo? What was it like?
4. Should animals be kept in a zoo?
5. Animals are often used in the circus. Do you think that they are well looked after?

1. Why do some people become vegetarians?
2. Do you think it is wrong to eat meat? What about dog , cat or guinea pig?
3. Is there any animal that you would never eat?
4. Can you think of any unusual animals that people eat in other countries?

* If man became extinct, which animal would become the dominant species on the planet? Why do you think so?

Introducing new forms of vocabulary:
Give your learners an idiom (or part of an idiom) that uses animals and ask them what it means. For example:

* cats and dogs (as in ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’)

Now try to elicit other interesting expressions that use animals? What are they? What do they mean? Don’t be afraid of giving your learners hints so that they can guess the way to use the idiom and how to use it in a sentence.

Some Interesting Animal expressions:

1. It’s raining cats and dogs
2. When the cat’s away the mouse will play
3. Sitting duck
4. As strong as a horse
5. Open a can of worms
6. As blind as a bat
7. I could eat a horse
8. As quiet as a mouse
9. As strong as an ox
10. As slippery as a snake
11. As big as an elephant
12. I feel like a fish out of water
13. The early bird catches the worm
14. To behave like an animal
15. Wait until the cows come home
16. Top dog
17. To make a mountain out of a molehill
18. As sly as a fox


Do a mix and match activity with cards. Your learners have to match the cards to the meanings. You will need to give thought to classroom management in this activity. Will your students work in pairs or in teams? As you monitor, you may wish to give clues.

Alternatively, you may wish to give them a handout and ask them to link the idiom to the meaning.

You may wish to use the animal idioms from above or use some that you can think of. Remember to introduce these idiomatic phrases in as natural a way to your learners as possible.


There are a number of different ways you can do this activity. You could do it as a listening or a reading activity. Your learners should be at a level where they would be happy to act it out in pairs or you could choose two of your best readers in the class to perform it. An alternative way would be to get your readers to read through the text in pairs and spot all the ten idioms and work out the meanings between themselves with a few hints from your self. Don’t be shy to give minimal hints and encourage your learners to try and guess what they mean through the context.

Pre-teaching some or even most (depending on your learners) of the idioms before you give them the text using one or both of the activities above will certainly help.

Two men are sitting in a café waiting for something to eat:
Bob: I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse.

Andy: Me too. But aren’t we a bit early? Will the café be serving food now?

Bob: In about ten minutes. The early bird catches the worm, as they say.

Andy: (quietly) But it’s not a very nice café, is it? I’m used to something more
upmarket. I feel like a fish out of water in this place. Can’t we go to Diane’s Café, they have real chairs to sit on there, not like these plastic ones.

Bob: I’m not going to another café now. Look at the weather. It’s raining cats and
dogs now.

Andy: Okay. As long as the food’s good.

Bob: Oh, the food’s wonderful here – don’t you worry. Once you’ve got a good
breakfast in you and you’ll feel as strong as an ox.

Andy: At least the café’s empty now.

Bob: That’s right, we can talk as loud as we want. In those posh restaurants you
have to be as quiet as a mouse.

Andy: Yeah, we can talk about anything we want, without anyone hearing us.

Bob: Indeed. We can talk about the problem with your neighbour.

Andy: What, George, the fella who sold you that car? Now don’t go opening that can
of worms.

Bob: Look, I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill, but he sold me a car
that doesn’t work.

Andy: I told you before. That guy’s as slippery as a snake. You should never have
got involved with him. You must have been blind as a bat. I wouldn’t have
bought that car.

Bob: Yes, I should have listened to you, but it seemed such a good deal at the time.

Andy: You won’t get any money back from him. He really is a sly old fox. I think
you should say goodbye to that problem and never have any more dealings
with him. Come on, our breakfasts are here. Let’s tuck in and forget about old


Gap Fill (Cloze):

You can set this for homework or to do at the end of the lesson if there is time. This activity will help consolidate what they have learned by using these idiomatic expressions in different contexts.

You can also use this as a template to create your own handout, depending on the expressions you have looked at in your lessons.


Look at the following sentences and see if you can link it to an idiomatic expression you have learned today in this lesson:

1. My sister lets the slightest little thing upset her. The dustbin men didn’t turn up this morning to collect the rubbish and she wants to phone the council.


2. Chloë’s parents are going away for the weekend leaving her in charge of the house. Although she hasn’t told them, she has already invited her friends over on Saturday night for a big party.


3. I’m not used to going to pubs. The music is always too loud, I’m not fond of drinking alcohol and the smoke makes me cough. Also, the people in pubs are always so loud and confident, whereas I am not.


4. I came in at 2.30am last Sunday morning after the party. I was careful not to wake up my parents, so I carefully closed the front door and tip toed up the stairs.


5. I saw the 11.00am showing of the new Star Wars movie although I actually got to the cinema at 10.00 so I could get a seat. I know how popular this film is.


6. I saw my friend John pick up a piano the other day and lift it onto a truck. I could never do that!


7. The man who did my tiling told me that it would cost only £200, but he ended up charging me £350 as it took him longer than two days. I don’t think I can trust him any more.


8. In war, soldiers have to be careful not to be seen. They have to wait in the shadows of trees and in places where their enemy cannot see them. If they walk freely in the open they might get shot.


9. I am very hungry, as I haven’t eaten since this morning.



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