(Eng.) Giant Panda: National Geographic Resources To Combine EFL with CLIL from A1 to C1+

The Omniversum is a unique cinema in the Hague. On entering the building, you buy tickets to see a film on a gigantic screen. The screen is 36m wide and 18m high. The sheer pleasure of watching a film unfold in front of your eyes equals lying comfortably in soft armchairs; the pleasure also means becoming part of a film shown on the especially designed screen; finally, the pleasure corresponds to the viewers being gradually absorbed by the voices, images, and stories to be told on the screen. The repertoire of the Omniversum offers films the aim of which is to familiarize the audience with secrets of the human life, nature, our planet in its versatile dimensions. In its vision and mission, the cinema accentuates respect and educational values promoted through its multiple shows.

I’ve chosen one film which has become an undeniable hit recently: Pandas, The Journey Home, which is still another National Geographic production. I witnessed the journey into the wild taken by the young panda bear Tao Tao. He is being gradually released into the wilderness of the bamboo forests of China. The film records the group work of several dedicated workers from Bifengxia Panda Base, who spend endless hours preparing pandas for their release back into the wild at Wolong National Nature Reserve.

Having seen the forty-minute-long documentary inspired me afterwards to design activities on the giant panda. This time, since the panda bear fascinates so many people regardless of sex, age, or ethnicity, the activities present below cover all age groups as well as all language proficiency levels.

Let’s start then: I wanted to combine language (L) with content (C) and, by doing so, my intention was to reinforce the CLIL approach from the lowest language proficiency level upwards.


  • LEVEL: A1-A2 (based on general information: ref. below)


LANGUAGE FOCUS: the Present Simple Tense; the Past Simple Tense; names of countries CLIL: Biology, Geography, Sport

NOTE: Ss are familiar with some general ideas on the panda bear. Ss’ previous knowledge is checked here. Ss’ resourcefulness (maps, the Internet, TV / cinema documentaries) is important here. T prompts and facilitates. The activity may also be treated as an oral task (no written task in front of Ss): T gives options, Ss respond. In this case, more visuals are needed and T interacts with visual and auditory students.

INSTRUCTIONS: Multiple choice: Choose the correct answer from three options given.

1)      Out of the three pictures, choose the giant panda. [pdf]

2)      The giant panda lives in [a] Japan  [b] China  [c] Vietnam.

3)      On the map, choose the place which is the native land of the panda bear. [pdf]

4)      The giant panda eats [a] bamboo   [b] eucalyptus   [c] a lot of meat.

5)      So popular in the Republic of China, the giant panda is one of its international symbols. It was one of the five Fuwa mascots during [a] the Beijing Marathon   [b] the Beijing Race   [c] the Beijing Olympics.


LANGUAGE FOCUS: Vocabulary – body parts; singular and plural nouns (-s; -es endings); spelling  CLIL: Biology

NOTE: Ss may each get a copy of a picture presenting the giant panda. Ss may bring their own pictures of the giant panda, their panda mascots, panda posters, etc. T may alternatively display the picture and involve the whole class (the names of the body parts may first be elicited and then their spelling may be checked).

INSTRUCTIONS: Picture description: In the picture showing the giant panda, mark the following: [pdf]

  1. coat  2. patch / patches   3. ear / ears   4. nose   5. paw / paws


LANGUAGE FOCUS: Vocabulary – adjectives: long, high, tall, fat; asking questions “how tall”, “how long”; practising the cardinal numerals  CLIL: Biology and Maths

NOTE: To reinforce practical word-building and word-association tasks, T may get Ss to practise the nouns related to the adjectives, i.e. length, height, weight. Such nouns are useful in everyday situations.

INSTRUCTIONS: Reading comprehension: Read the text and then answer the questions below the text.

The tail of the adult giant panda is 15 cm long. The adult panda is 90 cm tall. Male pandas weigh up to 160 kg and female pandas – 70 kg. One day you see three pandas. Wow! What a fantastic day for you! There are two males and one female in the group. Answer the questions about them?

  1. How long are all the tails together?
  2. How tall are all the pandas together?
  3. How fat are all the pandas together?
  4. There is a vehicle which can take up to 200 kg. Can all the pandas go?
  5. There is a doorway which leads to a bamboo room. What a feast for the pandas! The doorway is 120 cm high. Can the pandas go through the doorway to eat their favourite bamboo?



  • LEVEL: B1-B2 (based on Pandas: The Journey Home: ref. below)


LANGUAGE FOCUS: Verb forms: infinitives used as the imperative; collocations and fixed phrases: stress on adjectives and verbs  CLIL: Science

NOTE: Ss focus their attention on the sound primarily. The vision helps them answer some of the questions, e.g. question 1.

INSTRUCTIONS: Listening comprehension: Watch the trailer of Pandas: The Journey Home and answer the following questions:

  1. Which part of the world are you invited to see?
  2. Who invites you to see the world’s loveable animals?
  3. Who do you meet in the film?
  4. What kind of giants are the pandas?
  5. What should you be prepared for?
  6. What are some verbs which encourage you to see the world of the giant panda? Give at least three.


LANGUAGE FOCUS: Collocations and fixed phrases: stress on adjectives and verbs

NOTE: Ss listen to get detailed information. Some questions below may be answered thanks to the questions from Activity 1. Some questions may also be answered with no prior listening. Encourage your Ss to answer as many questions as possible before the trailer is played. Having a few good answers guarantees Ss’ further motivation.

INSTRUCTIONS: Multiple choice: While watching the trailer, choose the correct option to form the expressions used in the narration.

  1. an incredible real-life adventure ________ a] waits   b] awaits   c] expects
  2.  ________ a] admire   b] learn about   c] see the world’s most loveable animals
  3. follow the extraordinary efforts to _______ them a] protect   b] save   c] take care of
  4. meet the team dedicated to their ________ a] work   b] passion    c] hobby
  5. experience the first-hand story of ________  a] life   b] pandas   c] survival
  6. lose your ________   a] hearts   b] eyes    c] souls to those gentle giants


LANGUAGE FOCUS: Grammar: imperatives used to invite the audience; Vocabulary: fixed phrases and collocations, geographical names  CLIL: Geography, Media Studies

NOTE: Having been equipped with useful phrases and information, Ss take further notes on any more details they’d like to remember when they do the narration themselves. Ss have some time to prepare their narration in groups. They divide their roles, the trailer is played again and some groups (depending on timing) present their narration.

INSTRUCTIONS: Narration: The trailer is played once more. Watch and listen and take some notes because you’re the one(s) to do the narration next.


LANGUAGE FOCUS: Discourse markers to indicate chronology, e.g. first, next; asking and answering interview-based questions; vocabulary – showing places on a map and using cartography-related vocabulary   CLIL: Geography, Media Studies, IT

NOTE: With the project, Ss work in three groups. The distribution of tasks is clear. Ss keep to the deadlines assigned by T and involve the remaining groups in their project, i.e. when presenting their findings, the other groups should be encouraged to ask questions, etc.

INSTRUCTIONS: Project: You work in three different groups on one of the following projects:

  1. Watch the full documentary made by National Geographic (or any other documentary related to the giant panda) and reconstruct the stages of releasing the panda bear back into the wild.
  2. Watch the full documentary made by National Geographic (or any other documentary related to the giant panda and the people dedicating their time to the animal) and build an interview with the pandas’ care-taker(s).
  3. Browse various websites to see the maps of the world where the giant panda lives. Consider the free-ranging panda and the panda kept in a zoo.



  • C1- C1+ (based on a National Geographic article: ref. below)


LANGUAGE FOCUS: Verbs and nouns expressing an increase or a decrease in values; numbers in currencies; prepositional phrases; IELTS techniques for diagram analysis and writing  CLIL: Geography, Maths – Statistics

NOTE: Ss are given a set of expressions from the article (ref. below). The expressions may also be displayed by T for Ss to clearly see them in context.

INSTRUCTIONS: Matching synonyms / cloze test: Read through the sentences taken directly from a text on the giant panda. Match each sentence(1-5) with its synonymous expression (a-e). In the synonymous expressions some words are missing. So, fill in the gaps with the missing words. The first letters of the missing words have been given.

  1. It costs each ZOO an average of $2.6 mln a year.
  2. The budget tops $3 mln.
  3. The tab approaches $4 mln.
  4. Visits to the ZOO jumped by as much as 50 per cent over prior years.
  5. A surviving cub can ring up an additional $600,000 obligation for the breeding ZOO.


a)      A young panda can i _________ the costs by $600,000 .

b)      Annually, the ZOO spends on a_________ almost $3 mln.

c)      The amount of money to be spent r______________ as high as $3 mln.

d)     The total amount gets c_________ to $4 mln.

e)      The ZOO observed a dramatic r________ in visits by 50 per cent.


LANGUAGE FOCUS: compound words; relative clauses for definitions

NOTE: Ss are given the article and scan the text to find the compounds to the expressions they have been given. Of course, to rely on Ss’ previous knowledge, T first encourages them to come up with the compounds themselves. A model should come first; it may be one of the expressions from the article. Inductive teaching and Ss’ discovery techniques are prompted in this way.

INSTRUCTIONS: Scanning: Look at the definitions below and try to think of the compounds which correspond to the descriptions. Remember that the use of compounds in a text shows your mastery and language economy.

  1. species which are hard to spot (hard-to-spot species)
  2. bears which are of two colours, namely of black and white
  3. population which ranges freely
  4. mugs the design of which is related to the theme of the panda bear
  5. habitat with modern and recently developed ideas of design: “art” is the key here
  6. important events / people whose purpose is to raise funds
  7. pandas which are bred in captivity
  8. failures which result from breeding animals in captivity
  9. rock star which pleases crowds (of people)
  10. rock star which has four legs (the panda bear in this case)
  11. Tai Shan, which is just one year old


LANGUAGE FOCUS: Collocations and fixed phrases (verbs, nouns, adjectives, prepositional phrases)

NOTE: Ss are given a set of expressions from the article (ref. below). The expressions may also be displayed by T for Ss to clearly see them in context.

INSTRUCTIONS: Matching exercise / scanning: Look at the columns below. Match the words from the left-hand side column with the corresponding words from the right-hand side.



LANGUAGE FOCUS: writing a formal letter; cohesion and coherence; register indicators; target vocabulary and collocations from the earlier introduced material  CLIL: Science, Economics / Management, IT

NOTE: T gets Ss to write a formal letter of invitation. This may be an in-class task or a homework assignment. Of course, a mini conference with mini talks is an option here. Anything to help the panda.

INSTRUCTIONS: Writing a formal letter of invitation: On the basis of the text from National Geographic, any ideas from the Internet, and the abundant vocabulary from the material you’ve read, you’ve decided to organize a conference at school / college / university to promote the giant panda and its protection as an endangered species. Your task is to invite high-profile business people and anyone who can commit their time and money to saving the panda bear. In your letter (250-300 words),  you should include the following elements:

  1. general information on the conference (time, place, agenda);
  2. mission and vision of the conference;
  3. expected outcome and events (fund-raising actions);
  4. concern about the survival of the loveable animal, etc.

And so on and so forth….. The panda bear is so loveable that designing panda-based activities is a real pleasure. There are three more tasks I’d like to share with you – just three crossword puzzles, each of them for a different language level. All of the crossword puzzles are present in a separate pdf file. Enjoy doing them or getting your students to do them! Let’s panda!

References (DOA – 10.09.2015):

  • Article:


  • Documentary - trailer:


  • Omniversum:



  • Pictures [pdf] for A1-A2 levels: