Hippo and Friends

Title: Hippo and Friends
Description Song- and story-based course for very young children
Author: Claire Selby with Lesley McKnight
Publisher: Cambridge
Components: Teacher's Book (Starter), Pupil's Book (Starter)
Reviewed by: Michael Curry
Review date: June 2006

Hippo and FriendsThe Hippo and Friends books are song and story based books intended for pre-school children learning English. The pupil's workbook is made up of a very good range of drawing, matching, cutting and pasting activities. There are stickers to use throughout the book, and plenty of colouring exercises. Each page is perforated to allow teachers to tear out pages and hand them to students as individual worksheets if they choose to. I have encountered few pupil's books so attractive, practical, and containing so much variation in activities.

The pupil's book allows the students to work at a reasonable rate through the course content, without overwhelming them with language. It is a good example of a well-considered exercise book.

The teacher's book is also very attractive in terms of colour and layout. It contains lesson plans, game ideas, and the target language for every lesson is clearly laid out. Also of note is a small box with each lesson plan that contains the materials required for each lesson. I found this a nice touch.

Towards the rear of the teacher's book is a series of pages containing photocopiable resources. A separate booklet is also available with further games and activities for teachers to use.

My only problem with Hippo and Friends is the same problem with many books not specifically written for teachers of English in a foreign country. In the first lesson, the lesson plan recommends teachers ask the students: "Children, who's in the bag?" before introducing "Hippo" the puppet. For pre-school children who have never learnt English before, this question would need to be in their mother tongue. Realistically, many English teachers teaching in a foreign country can't do this, and many more wish not to use the L1 at all if it can reasonably be avoided.

If the teacher can't use the L1, or chooses not to, the Hippo and Friends books become much harder to use.

However, for teachers in the right circumstances the Hippo and Friends books would be a very good choice. The amount of target language is not overwhelming for very young students, it is age-appropriate, and the student's books are attractive and stimulating. Overall, this is a successful and helpful resource.

TEFL.net ESL Reviews & ArticlesMichael Curry taught English in Anhui Province, China, for several years. He now lives in New Zealand where he works as a freelance writer and Customs Officer.