Pets and other animals play an important role in many learners' lives. Here are some ideas for exploiting the theme.

Pet psychologist

Find some strange or amusing photos of animals, including wild ones. Distribute one picture to each student; tell them that it shows their pet. They love this creature, but, sadly, it has some life problems. Students must list what they think might be three of their pet's problems, together with reasons for them. Students then meet in pairs. A pet owner describes the problems from their pet's viewpoint, using "I" (e.g. "My owners always want me to chase sticks but I hate it."). The other student takes the role of pet psychologist to hear about the problems and suggest creative solutions (e.g. "Next time, hide the stick and pretend you couldn't find it!")

Pet grammar

Put students in threes. Each group should include at least one pet owner. Distribute a list of 10 grammatical structures studied on the course. Students must write true sentences about pets using each of the grammar items (e.g. "If Peter had a dog he'd call it Prince") then rewrite each sentence as a question they could ask others (e.g. "If you had a dog what would you call it?"). Join groups up for a Q & A discussion.

Stunt dogs and catwalk cats

Remind the class that there are many working animals in the world. Elicit a list of common animal jobs e.g. horses pulling carts, dogs helping police etc. Include some odder examples such as movie stunts, fashion model, pop star etc. Distribute flash cards of animals, one to each pair. Ask students to choose the most interesting and unusual job they can think of for their animal. Pass the pictures round so that each pair sees at least 4 or 5. Join students up at the end to compare job ideas and select the cleverest ones.

My attitude to animals

Elicit a varied list of living creatures found in your country; add some birds, insects, snakes, spiders etc. if learners don't come up with these themselves. Now write up these questions:

  1. What is the best adjective to describe this creature (e.g. ferocious, cuddly etc)?

  2. If you found one injured by the side of a path, would you take it home?

  3. Could you ever eat one of these?

Allocate five contrasting animals to each group. Students discuss their animals in relation to the three questions, particularly focusing on the reasons. At the end, groups present their ideas to others.

Pet swap

Ask your class to bring in photos of their pets. Students who don't have a pet should find a magazine photo of an animal (these could include unlikely ones, such as a tiger!) In threes, appoint student A, B and C. C must try to persuade A and B that they would be happier if they swapped pets, giving lots of reasons. Change roles round after a few minutes. Does anyone succeed in persuading pairs to swap?