ESL Animal Idioms Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

This lesson plan will help ESL students learn about some frequently used idioms that contain references to animals. Students will listen to a read-aloud book, search reference materials for idioms, and act out an idiom.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson about animal idioms, students will be able to do the following:

  • Recognize and define the meaning behind some common animal idioms
  • Explain the meaning of common animal idioms to others

Time Length

30-60 minutes

Common Core Curriculum Standards

  • ELP.4-5.8

Determine the meaning of words and phrases in oral presentations and literary and informational text.


Recognize and explain the meaning of common idioms, adages, and proverbs.


  • cat nap
  • cat's got your tongue
  • copy cat
  • every dog has his day
  • get two birds with one stone
  • have a cow
  • hold your horses
  • horse around
  • in the dog house
  • let the cat out of the bag
  • puppy love
  • raining cats and dogs
  • rat race
  • smell a rat
  • take the bull by the horns


  • Copy of the book Amelia Bedelia Unleashed by Lynne Avril
  • Copies of the book Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms by Marvin Terban
  • chart paper
  • markers
  • paper
  • pencil
  • post-it notes
  • index cards

Reading & Discussion

  • Read Amelia Bedelia Unleashed together, pausing throughout the story to discuss the following questions:
    • What does Amelia's mother mean when she says, 'It looks like it's going to rain cats and dogs'?
    • What does Amelia think that it means to rain cats and dogs?
    • Read the title of Chapter 7. Why do you think the author used 'Puppy Love' in the chapter's title?
    • When Eric says, 'You want to get the dog out of the box without letting the cat out of the bag,' what does he mean? Why does this sentence confuse Amelia?
    • What does Amelia's father mean when he says, 'They say every dog has his day'? How else could this phrase be used?


Idiom Search

Materials: chart paper, markers, copies of the book Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms by Marvin Terban, post-it notes, pencils, paper

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