Lesson Plan Using “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” for ESL Students

Teaching Vocabulary to Children in the ESL Class

Children learn new words quickly during game playing, songs and flashcard activities, which help build vocabulary and support understanding of certain concepts. Second language acquisition in children can be very quick if teachers know how to engage children's imagination and interest through stories and make-believe. In this way, vocabulary for fairs and animals can be taught by building varied ESL activities around Old MacDonald Had a Farm, which is a song that most children are familiar with and one that has kept them laughing over the years.

Old MacDonald Board Game Resources

This lesson plan is designed for four players but can also be adapted to groups of four players with each player taking a turn to participate. The language focus is on building vocabulary for Old MacDonald, fair, horse, pig, goat, donkey, cow, chicken, sheep, duck, cat, dog, rabbit and mouse. According to the level of the players, the activity will also focus on animal sounds or the construction of simple sentences with the verb "to have". This lesson will take approximately an hour from the beginning of the lesson to the end of the board game.

Flashcards of the above vocabulary are the first and most important resource for this lesson. Teachers must also organize a dice and tokens for each player and the game board.

The game board is easy to design. Teachers can draw or stick pictures of Old MacDonald, the fair and each of the above animals on to an A3 sheet of paper and draw arrows between each animal to show the direction the players must follow from the start square to the end square. There must be at least two pictures of Old MacDonald on the board and the picture of the fair must be on the end square as the fair is the final destination for the players.

Old MacDonald Board Game Lesson Plan

Children must possess the basic animal vocabulary for this lesson plan to work. Teachers can begin by teaching or reviewing the vocabulary by using flashcards. There are many different types of flashcard activities that can be used to introduce new words to children in an ESL class. If animal vocabulary is unfamiliar to students then simple drilling will introduce the new words. For variety, teachers can ask a student to draw a picture of the animal they have seen on a flashcard and ask the others to shout out the name of the animal. Another activity children love is to get a child to mime the animal and have the others shout out the name of the animal they think it is. These activities will quickly teach or reinforce animal vocabulary enough for children to be able to play the board game.

Once children have acquired the vocabulary, they can move on to playing the board game. Teachers must explain the rules of the game, pointing out that each player must roll the dice and move the corresponding number of animal pictures until they land on an animal. If they have the bad luck to land on Old MacDonald, they must jump back to the beginning; but, if they land on any other square, they must:

  • say the name of the animal or make the sound of the animal if they are beginners
  • make a sentence about the animal using the verb "to have" if they are at a more advanced level or form a sentence like, "the cow has four legs and is black and white"

The aim of the game is for each player to move his or her token along the board game towards the fair, which is the end square. The first player or group to reach the fair is the winner.

Making animal sounds, miming, drawing and playing board games are definitely the idea of fun ESL lessons on fairs and animals for almost any child who is asked what they would like to do during an ESL class.


Content from author's own experience.