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Going to the Zoo: Animals, Nouns, & Verbs Lesson Plan

Author: Loretta Walker

Year: 2015

Artform: Music

Subjects: Language Arts

Grade: Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd

Duration: 15-30 minutes

Overview: The song, We’re Going to the Zoo, serves as a vehicle for learning animals and their movements. In addition, it can be used to learn the difference between nouns and verbs.

Standards and Objectives

Natural voice free from strain. Use body to internalize musical concepts
Vocabulary: Sort Categories, also Shades of Meaning

Nouns and Verbs
Students will choose and then sing nuanced words to augment verses from the song, Going to the Zoo. If desired, the lesson may be expanded to explicitly teach the difference between nouns and verbs.



Play and sing along with the vocal recording of Going to the Zoo (Click on Play 1, which is the recording with vocals. For printed notation, click on the title). This recording has delightful variations in style and tempo that reflect the lyrics of the song.

For younger students, the teacher sings the verses and invites the students to sing along on the refrain as they become comfortable doing so. If simple, consistent motions are added to each phrase of the refrain, the children can learn it very quickly. Older students may be able to read most of the lyrics to the song if they are projected for the class to see and the teacher helps the children track their place in the text. Enjoy exploring some of the lesson ideas included on the notation page.


Prepare to have the children help you create very simple new verses by modeling the process. Choose one animal, followed by a single-word description of something that animal might do. Turn that into a new verse, such as:

See the lion roar, roar, roaring,
Roar, roar, roaring,
Roar, roar, roaring.
See the lion roar, roar, roaring,
We can stay all day… (then sing the refrain).


Using suggestions given by the children, create a vertical list of several zoo animals on the board.

Then have the children suggest single-word ideas of what each animal might do. Because young children are inclined to suggest either adjectives or entire phrases, I find it helpful to choose one animal from the list and ask the children to act out how that animal would move. After they show me how that animal might move, I ask them to think of a word that describes how they were moving. After taking several suggestions, I choose one of the words to write next to that animal’s name on the board.

After repeating this process several times, we have two parallel lists on the board. There is a list of animals on the left side (nouns) and a list of matching action words (verb) on the right.

First-graders who were preparing to visit an aquarium created these words for three additional verses:

  • Sting ray floating
  • Dolphin jumping
  • Penguin waddling

We would sing: See the sting ray float, float, floating… etc.

The recording has 7 verses, with the 6th verse becoming very slow, and the 7th verse resuming the original, quick tempo. If you use the “Play 2” recording for this activity, it will play the accompaniment only and will not interfere with your new lyrics. The children enjoy moving while they sing their new words.

It is simple to extend the lesson to teach identification of nouns and verbs. Simply write the word “Noun” above the list of animals and “Verb” above the list of actions. Discuss how all the words on the Noun list are things that can be touched and picked up. (One student pointed out to me that some animals are so big they have to have a giant pick them up.) Verbs are the things that the nouns do, such as float.

Props can be helpful in teaching this concept. If each child has a cutout or stick puppet of the various animals they will be singing about, they can hold the noun in their hands, and then move it the way the verb describes.

If props are not practical, children can demonstrate nouns, by making themselves into a statue of the animal word the teacher is pointing to. They then demonstrate verbs by making the action the verb describes. When the children have mastered this, the teacher might point to a pair of words (i.e. lion, roar), then call out “Noun!” or “Verb!” and have the children respond accordingly.


Create more verses if you have time. Enjoy singing and moving to the song one more time.

The noun-verb portion of this lesson does not deal with the technicalities of sentence structure in the lyrics that the children create. I leave the details of sentence diagramming to future grammar lessons and keep the focus of the lesson on just the two words: the name of the animal and its action.
  • Do certain words describe a particular movement better than other words?
  • What is the difference between a noun and a verb?
This is a lesson in which students with limited verbal skills (ELL, communication disorder, etc.) can shine because they are often very eloquent in expressing themselves through movement. It can be effective to have those students model a movement and other students to help them name that movement.
  • shades of meaning
  • noun
  • verb
The composer of the song, Tom Paxton, is a major figure among folksingers and songwriters. His music has become part of the fabric of American life. He is still an active performer. This song has also been recorded by Raffi.
Observe whether children are moving in ways consistent with the animals and movements chosen. Do their movements reflect the shades of meaning inherent in the words?

See Work Period section for a variety of embedded assessment strategies.
This activity is easily adapted to visits to aquariums, aviaries, etc. However, the lyrics still work best if the refrain is still sung with the word “zoo” because of the rhyming scheme.

Recording and notation of Going to the Zoo available on Utah State Board of Education website

You will need both the “Play 1” and “Play 2” recordings. The first includes vocals and the second is accompaniment only. The notation and lesson ideas can be accessed by clicking on the title.


  • White board or document camera
  • Prefer 2 colors for writing
  • Sound system to play digital music recording
  • Recording and notation of Going to the Zoo available on Utah State Board of Education website. (You will need both the “Play 1” & “Play 2” recordings. The first includes vocals and the second is accompaniment only. The notation and lesson ideas can be accessed by clicking on the title.)