Teaching animal vocabulary to ESL students is one of my favourite things in this world. Firstly, I just love animals – even more than I love teaching! I spend my holidays travelling the world, seeing all the amazing animals I can find, and taking photos of them.

When I get back to class, I use my photos to show my students all about this amazing world. Living in China, they are brought up in big apartment buildings where they can barely see any wildlife – maybe just a bird or a stray cat. They think animals belong in zoos.

It’s a privilege to be able to teach them about the wonderful world of animals, and hopefully I can make a difference by bringing up a few hundred students to have some respect for nature that they wouldn’t get taught in any other Chinese class.

To teach the animal vocabulary, I use this Powerpoint presentation:

ESL Animal Vocabulary from David Wills

With higher level students, I have them describe the animals – what they look like, what they eat, where they live, etc. With lower level students it’s probably enough just to teach the names of the animals.

You’ll notice a lack of farmyard animals and pets here… They usually pop up in storybooks and textbooks, so I didn’t bother including them here.

I also like to include a discussion with my intermediate students, using some of the following discussion questions:

  • What is your favourite animal? Why?
  • What do you think is the most dangerous animal in the world?
  • What sort of animals make good pets?
  • How can humans help protect animals?
  • How do you feel about zoos?
And for my IELTS students, I’ll use the topic covered in this video I made:


More teaching ideas:

Have students think of their favourite animal and describe it to a partner. The partner should guess what it is. For this, you obviously need to pre-teach words like horn, hoof, stripes, spots, fur, and so on.