This is an activity to introduce and practise animal idioms. Students first answer a few questions, complete the idioms with the missing animals, match them to their definitions and answer some questions using the target language. Although the activity is quite hard I have done it with many different levels and by encouraging, providing the right scaffolding and guiding my students I managed to keep them going despite the difficulty.

Level: B2

Time: 60 minutes


  1. To increase familiarity and correct use of animal idioms.
  2. To match the idioms to their definitions.
  3. To answer questions containing the target language in pairs.


  1. What a zoo Worksheet, one per student.


  1. Hand out each student a copy of What a zoo Worksheet.
  2. Tell students to, in pairs, answer questions in Exercise 1.
  3. Next ask students to complete the idioms with the missing animals. Bear 🙂 in mind that they will not know the majority of the expressions, but resist the urge to give them the answers. In one group I had all the students working relentlessly to try and come up with the right answers by applying logic, giving examples in their mother tongue (Spanish) until eventually they got ALL the answers right. It was an absolute pleasure to watch them and guide them. I have to add that I have an unshakeable belief in my students’ abilities and they can clearly sense it and as a result often are happy to deal with tasks that, initially, seem far too hard for them. With time however the VAST majority accepts the responsibility for their own learning in my classroom and they try and work things out for themselves.
  4. Check together as a class. Again here I always ask EVERYONE to compare FIRST rather than list the right answers. At this stage people often have some mistakes and if they do, there is usually someone in the classroom who is able to peer correct. It makes students so much more confident when you show them they can do it without your help but you are always present to provide the support and guidance if they are at a loss.
  5. Ask the students to match the idioms to their definitions. Again students work in pairs to encourage cooperation and show them how much they can learn from each other and that the teacher is NOT the only source of knowledge in the classroom. I don’t want my students to ever become too dependent on me. I value autonomy greatly and try to help them develop tools to be as independent of me as possible.
  6. Check together as a class.
  7. When the students have finished, ask them to look at the questions in Exercise 3 and first try and write down the animal idioms that match the definitions in bold. I encourage them to do it from memory first as it’s a great way to start recycling vocabulary and make them think and engage. I often turn these exercises into mini competitions to add some excitement.
  8. When they have finished, ask them to compare with their partner. Again comparing never means mindlessly looking through each other’s answers but justifying your choices which is always a great extra speaking activity and an opportunity to use the idioms again and again.
  9. Students now answer the questions in pairs or small groups using the animal idioms as often as possible.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to draw four expressions they have learnt in class in their notebooks.

Related posts:

Cat got your tongue? Speak up


All hands on deck, kids

Can’t stop dishing out idioms

Nothing changes if nothing changes

P.S. Happy Birthday Natalusia.


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