A Lesson Plan from the CoBaLTT Project

Animals of the World

**Adapted from the POLIA Handbook

Cultural Theme or
Academic Content Area:

Cultural Contexts (Animals, Environment)

Language:    Any





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Target Audience:

Traditional Middle School, 2

Proficiency Level:

Novice High


To describe and understand characteristics of animals.


This activity could be done prior to a visit to the zoo (preferably one that corresponds to the language days scheduled at the zoo). In an immersion setting, it may coincide with science lessons on animals and their habitats. This activity is intended to function like a game during which various teams earn points based on their answers.


Students will...

  • Identify five major characteristics of a specific animal (habitat, food, colrs, special ability, physical characteristics)
  • Demonstrate understanding of animal characteristics as described
  • Associate animal habitats with geographical location
  • Locate on a map specific regions/countries where the animals can be found


Language: Content Obligatory
Students will...

  • Use present tense accurately (3rd pers. singular) to describe the 5 characteristics (It lives...; it is.../ it eats...)
  • Use new (and previously learned) vocabulary items related to five specific characteristics of the animals selected for the lesson (e.g. food: herbivore, canivore; colors: gray, yellow, brown; habitat: regious, mountains, plains, desert, etc.; social patterns such as: matriarchal/patriarchal communitites or solitary)
  • Practice the use of simple sentence constructions (SVO)
  • Demonstrate accurate gender/number agreement

Language: Content Compatible
Students will...

  • Use appropriate expressions in complete sentences to ask for clarification of meaning when necessary, e.g., Please repeat the clue. I don't understand, etc.
  • Use accurate question formation to guess the identity of the animal (Is it the giraffe?)
  • Use negative constructions accurately, e.g., "No, it's not a monkey."
  • Use prepositions of place, e.g., Elephants live in...

Learning Strategies / Skills Development / Social (optional):
Students will...

  • Use resources to locate information about a variety of domestic and non-domestic animals
  • Use context clues to enhance reading comprehension (to guess the meaning of new words in texts about the assigned animal)
  • Use prior knowledge and listening skills to infer meaning and create guesses based on the clues provided by classmates
  • Work cooperatively in pairs to complete assigned work
  • Work cooperatively in teams, each member carrying out his/her role as assigned

Time Frame:

Two 50-minute sessions

Materials Needed:

  • (large) world map, clearly showing the continents
  • Pictures of animals in the world
  • Reference books, etc. for gathering information on the animals (one reading in French on le rhinocéros is provided)
  • Large index cards for making the description cards
  • A box for placing the description cards

  • Description of Task:

    Preparation for the game - the writing task:

    The teacher reviews present tense and formation of simple sentences (e.g., subject, verb, object). Gender and number agreement are also reviewed, if applicable.

    Writing activity:
    In pairs, students are assigned the name of an animal and are asked to create a description card providing five "clues" about the animal. The pairs may need to do some research about the animal using reference books, the web, etc. (One reading in French titled "Le rhinocéros" is provided to show the types of resources students will need to consult to create the description cards.) The description card contains five categories (presented in the target language). The necessary vocabulary for the categories would be taught using the target language, the world map, pictures, etc. The class should create a description card together so that the construction of simple sentences using accurate present tense formation and gender/number agreement is modeled before pairs are assigned to write descriptions. A description card created for the elephant may look like the following:

    1. Continent and habitat: It lives on the plain in Africa (or India).
    2. Food: It's a herbivore.
    3. Color(s): It's gray.
    4. Most noticeable characteristic: It has a trunk.
    5. Special ability (what makes it unique from other animals?): It lives within strong, highly protective, matriarchal communities.

    It is important for the teacher to assign a variety of animals covering many continents, types of habitats, etc. Students should be instructed to create complete sentences on the description cards. The description cards are collected by the teacher and assessed before the game takes place on the next day.

    The game:
    Students will be placed into at least five teams. Each team needs to assign various roles to the team members: a "card-reader," an "answer-giver," a "point-keeper" and a "facilitator," whose job it is to call on teams that are ready to make a guess. All the description cards that students prepared are placed in a box.

    A "card-reader" will pick a card from the box and read all the clues on the card one at a time, pausing between clues. The rest of the class works cooperatively in their teams to try to guess the name of the animal with as few clues as possible.

    The "facilitator" watches the teams to look for the first hand that is raised and to call on the "answer-giver" for that team.

    The "answer-givers" representing the teams can make a guess at any time by raising their hands and being called on by the "facilitator."

    If they can give the correct answer after the first clue, they will receive five points. They will get four points for giving the correct answer after the second clue, three points after the third clue, two points after the fourth clue, and finally one point after the fifth clue. However, if they guess incorrectly, they must subtract points from their total (one point if they guess incorrectly after only one clue, tow points after two clues, etc.) The "point-keeper" is responsible for keeping track of all the points the team earns.

    For the next round, the "card-reader" from the team that correctly identified the animal in the previous round will pick up a card and read the clues. A "facilitator" from another team is selected. The game continues until all cards are read.

    An extension of this lesson would be to have... · Students can study endangered species of a particular country (e.g., Senegal) and create "protest posters" that provide brief descriptions of the animals and indicate the reason why they are endangered. The posters can be displayed in the school or at the zoo.

    · Students can write a fixed-form poem (Shrum & Glisan, 1994, pp. 183-184). An example follows:

    robuste, patient
    abatte les arbres
    j'adore les trompes
    le tronc


    The description cards can be evaluated on the basis of points: one point for each category for accuracy of content, accuracy of sentence formation (including correct use of present tense), and accuracy of gender and number agreement. The total number of points possible is 15. The teacher can assess students' performance informally as the game takes place.


    References and Resources:

    Shrum, J. & Glisan, E. (1994). Teacher's handbook: Contextualized language instruction. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

    Le rhinocéros text is from:

    Schier, M. (1967). Animaus des tropiques. Paris: Odege-Press.

    Senegalese children's publication for more information on animals in French:

    Gune yi, le journal des enfants.
    BP 15
    115 Dakar, Senegal




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