14 Goiridh Òg Ò: Activity Songs for Vocabulary

Raghnaid NicGaraidh

Activity Summary Statement

This lesson plan is based around vocabulary-building in a single topic area (such as animals or clothing), using “activity songs” (nursery and pre-school songs which encourage actions and repetition) to reinforce vocabulary pronunciation and common phrase structures. 

Learning Outcomes

Beginner students will:

  • Know the names of common animals and confidently pronounce them;
  • Describe the colour of the animal;
  • State what sound the animal makes.

Intermediate students will:

  • Know the names of animals and their babies;
  • Describe the colour and body configuration of the animals;
  • Describe where the animals live and what they eat.

Gaelic Level

Beginner to intermediate level — this lesson can be suitable for complete or nearly-complete beginners but can also be pitched to hold the attention of intermediate learners.

Lesson Preparation

This lesson can be used for many topic areas but is designed here to teach about animals or clothing.

  1. Prepare props based on the selected topic:
    • for animals, animal figurines or laminated cards with animal pictures on them;
    • for clothing, dolls’ clothes or laminated cards with clothes pictures on them.
  2. Double-check relevant vocabulary, especially their spelling!
    • for animals, this includes animal names (check babies, words for male and female animals, words for a group), animal body parts, and animal verbs;
    • for clothing, try to brainstorm clothing vocabulary that students might want to know (someone will definitely come up with something you’ve never had to say in Gaelic before).

Resources Required

Required resources:

Optional resources:

  • Whiteboard and whiteboard marker (or, if online, the chat section of Zoom or Skype).

Lesson Structure (1hr-1.5hr)

Time Activity Resources
5 min

Introduction: a brief reminder to stick to Gaelic and ask questions in English at the end. Ask familiar questions to settle into Gaelic.

Ciamar a tha thu?” and similar questions

Dè an t-ainm a th’ ort?” if necessary

10 min

Song: Goiridh òg o

Listen to the recording and pick out the animal names. You may simply tell students which words are animals and what animals they are, but see if the students know first even if you haven’t taught the vocabulary (many students have prior knowledge or extend themselves outside of class). If using only Gaelic for this section, you or the students may pick out the animal from the props rather than translating the word.

Lyrics from The Celtic Lyre

Lyrics below

YouTube video –  Raghnaid NicGaraidh

10 min

Introduce the animal names. Pull the animal props out of a bag and state the name, having students repeat after you.

Animal props

20-40 min

Discuss the animals. Choose which of these questions best suit your learners’ abilities or your target grammar (e.g. “tha X air” or “tha e X” structures, future or habitual tense)

  • Name of the animal
  • Colour of the animal (“Dè an dath a th’ air?” or “Tha e X”)
  • Description of the animal (mòr or beag, cunnartach or laghach)
  • Describe the animal’s body parts (e.g. ìte, bian, fada, goirid, number of limbs, “Cia mheud X a th’ air?”)
  • Dè bhitheas X ag ràdh agus ag ithe?” or “Dè a dh’itheas e? Ithidh e…
  • Càit’ am bi X a’ fuireach?

Animal props

10 min

Song: “Bidh cù ag ràdh…

Video with animal props

Video with stuffed animal toys

Sound with lyrics


10 min

English time! Briefly explain the grammar structures, and allow students to ask questions.




  • You could choose another song with lots of animal names in it to listen to at the beginning.
  • You could sing “Bidh cù ag ràdh…” between two segments of chatting about the animal props, and then learn another song at the end. Other song ideas include:
  • You might discuss how Gaels view(ed) the world by looking at which animals they talk about in songs.
  • You might assign students to find another song with animals in it.
  • If you are using the flashcards linked at the end of the lesson, you can play a matching game with the students.


This lesson plan structure works very well with clothing, using doll clothes as the props. Clothes lend themselves especially well to sorting things by colour and by type, as well as describing what people are wearing (either the students, or pictures of people).

If you are teaching online, this is also something that works very well on Zoom, as students are forced to name each item rather than just sorting them manually!

Song ideas for the clothes topic include:

The main “activity song” for the clothes topic that I use is “Tha brogan orm a-nis.” It has the tune of “Farmer in the dell”. Here is a recording of it.

Tha brògan orm a-nis
Tha brògan orm a-nis
Tha brògan agus stocainnean
Tha brògan orm a-nis

You should continue adding to the third line with each verse, letting different students suggest the next item of clothing. Keep going until no one can remember all the clothes in order anymore!

Preparing for Challenges

A common issue that occurs is students not differentiating “Tha i ruadh” and “Tha falt ruadh oirre” structures, and producing something like “Tha i falt ruadh oirre.” This is something that usually needs to be addressed after the lesson as students usually won’t be aware enough of the issue to ask about it.

If you have students who speak different varieties of English, be ready for them to constantly debate what the thing should be called. Firmly and insistently remind them that we are in Gaelic class and we are speaking Gaelic and that you very much do not care what they call it in English. You may teach and use the phrases “an aon rud” (“the same thing”) and “coma leat” (“don’t worry”).



I don’t know if this is a commonly-known song. It has the tune of “Heel and toe polka” or “Little brown jug”, and each verse is structured as so:

Bidh cù ag ràdh – ùf ùf ùf (x3)
Dè bhitheas tunnag ag ràdh?

Bidh tunnag ag ràdh – bhuac bhuac bhuac (x3)
Dè bhitheas càt ag ràdh?

Each verse introduces a new animal at the end, which is the featured animal of the next verse. Learners can take turns picking the next animal, by calling out the name or by holding up the relevant animal figure. Several recordings of this song are listed in the lesson plan table above.

You may also discuss the differences between animal noises in Gaelic and in English, or between different locations. These are the animal sounds I use in Australia, but different areas of Nova Scotia might have different sounds. Here is a video of me pronouncing the sounds.

Càt – màu màu màu
Cù – uf uf uf
Bò – mó mó mó
Caora – mé mé mé
Gobhar – é é é
Each – né né né
Asal – ì-homh ì-homh
Muc – gnos gnos gnos
Pocanach-craoibhe no koala – gnos gnos gnos
Ailbhean – tù tù
Pocanach-leumaidh no kangaroo-wallaby – cnap cnap cnap
Cearc – gog gog gaog
Coilleach – gog a hì a haoidh
Tunnag – bhuag bhuag bhuag
Feannag – gòrg gòrg
Cùcabarag – cùcu càcaca
Seallainn – faraman faraman
Losgainn – cnag cnag

About the Author

Raghnaid NicGaraidh is born and raised in South Australia, with roots in Scotland through her father. She grew up around Gaelic-speakers in Adelaide and has been intentionally speaking the language since she was a teenager. While studying for a degree in linguistics and ethnomusicology in Melbourne, she was the conductor and music director of Coisir Ghàidhlig Bhioctòiria (the Scottish Gaelic Choir of Victoria) from 2017-2020, and she has been teaching Gaelic language classes since 2016.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Cànan tro Òrain by Raghnaid NicGaraidh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.