“Hippo and friends”-a guest blog post by Margarita Kosior


Margarita Kosior is an amazing educator from Thessaloniki! I truly admire her work with storytelling !

I am so grateful that she accepted my invitation, to share one of her stories, on my Blog! Actually, she has been my inspiration to try similar activities with my junior classes and I wholeheartedly thank her, for that!



Every storyteller has their own style. Some use music to convey the mood and the emotions, some use puppets, others rely mainly on their own voice, gestures and mimicry. I want my storytelling sessions to stimulate all the senses and engage all types of learners; a song for musical learners, a game for the kinesthetic type, flashcards for visual learners and so it goes. My storytelling session can start with sounds, involve arts and crafts, and end with baking bread. Variety is one of the main ingredients and each session needs plenty of it.

With a touch of imagination, any story, a classic or a reader, can turn into a fascinating journey.

Each one of my storytelling sessions has a variety of goals including improving linguistic competence, artistic and creative expression, involving participants in group tasks, but also allowing time for personal reflection. All these contribute to increased levels of self-confidence of young learners as English language users.

One of the stories I often use in my storytelling sessions is Henry Hippo by Jenny Dooley and Virginia Evans (Express Publishing).


Photo credits: Magdalena Baca

Together with Henry Hippo and his friends I have visited libraries and schools, I have travelled to other cities and even countries and wherever we went, Henry was a great success.


Storytelling with Margarita at Sztuklandia, Lublin, Poland

Photo credits: Kinga Łaszcz

As a guest of the English Teachers’ Association of Larissa, Greece, I had the pleasure to entertain groups of children between the ages of 4 and 9 at a local library and a bookstore.

Storytelling with Margarita at the Central Library of Larissa, Greece


Photo credits: Vassiliki Mandalou


Storytelling with Margarita at Bookstore “Παιδεία”, Larissa, Greece

Photo credits: Aphro Gkiouris


Storytelling with Margarita at Bookstore “Παιδεία”, Larissa, Greece

Photo credits: Aphro Gkiouris

The storyline is engaging and fun. Henry Hippo gets stuck in mud. Peter Panda, Millie Monkey and Zara Zebra take turns and try to pull him out; in vain. Finally, Zara Zebra has a brilliant idea. The three animals pull together and manage to get Henry out of the mud. A joint effort brings results and the four friends understand that they are more successful if they work hand in hand.


Photo credits: Magdalena Baca

Before the students arrive, I set the scene for the story. I use a long piece of blue fabric for the river, a piece of brown fabric for the mud and a piece of yellow fabric for the sun.

Every storytelling session starts with a “Hello” song (it can be any “hello” song, the choice of the instructor). It is good to develop routines. They make the learners feel more comfortable and more self-confident right from the start.

Another routine is opening the Magic Box which hides different treasures every time, usually flashcards or realia which appear later in the story.


Photo credits: Magdalena Baca

In case of “Henry Hippo”, I create head bands with the four protagonists in advance and I place them in the Magic Box. With the use of a magic star and on the sound of the magic words, the Magic Box opens.


Photo by Margarita Kosior

Every time the group shout: “Magic Box, open!”, one head band is taken out.m-henryHenry Hippo


Peter Panda


Millie Monkey


Zara Zebra

After ample repetition, the participants know the names of the protagonists and are ready for the story. But the truth is that, especially in case of Henry Hippo, the students participate throughout the story. They take turns to wear the headbands, repeat the lines and play out the content of the story as I am reading the lines out. Depending on the age and level of the student, I ask them to repeat either complete sentences, phrases or single words. At turning points in the story (right after Henry Hippo asks for help), I ask the students to anticipate in what way each animal is going to try to help Henry Hippo. This practice creates suspense and builds the atmosphere of anticipation. Curiosity plays an important role in preschoolers’ lives. Young children ask many “why” questions and all the “why’s” have a purpose of getting to the bottom of things.

If the time is enough, I encourage my students to make their own sequel to the story by adding more jungle animals willing to help Henry Hippo get out of mud.

No good storytelling session goes without a song or a chant. I like simple songs; simple enough for the little ones to learn it in five minutes and sing it so loud that people up on the next floor and out in the street can hear them A good song or chant is a good way of revising target vocabulary. The repetitive rhyme and rhythm make it possible for even the youngest learners to join in.

My follow-up activities usually include arts and crafts projects. For Henry Hippo, I would recommend making a hippo magnet.



Photos by Margarita Kosior

I finish my storytelling sessions with a simple goodbye song, easy for even the youngest participants to join in and sing along.

Storytelling provides plenty of benefits to (very) young learners and there is plenty of research to prove it.

The benefits can be divided into three groups: mental, social, and educational. In terms of mental benefits, storytelling boosts thinking capacity; it is an activity for the brain. It provides opportunities for sharing thoughts and ideas as a group. Also, through enjoyable experiences while listening to a story, children will develop their individual reading tastes.

Stories from different cultures help children develop an awareness of the similarities between ourselves and others as well as highlight differences, which can then be explored and discussed in the classroom. Thus, children develop empathy and concern for others in order to understand the concept of social equality and justice. This will motivate them to become active citizens and take on social action in the future. Storytelling also conveys important values: bravery, respect, tolerance, teamwork, patience, generosity, fair play, forgiveness, peace, and other values which, when cultivated systematically, will make your students better people.

Also, through active participation in a storytelling session children internalize the language in a natural way within the scope of the thematic units discussed in class. Analyzing questions, retrieving details and associations triggered by the story, and deciding on answers – all these engage children in active learning.

Overall, storytelling has been shown to build intrinsic motivation and self-esteem.

Personally, I know one thing for sure: an engaging storytelling session creates magic, cultivates a love of reading at an early age and adds variety to your lesson. And these make it worth the effort!




Well, I tried this amazing story telling activity with two different classes of 1st graders, in a small state school with basic facilities, in a timy  classroom and… it really worked!! My kids just loved both the story and Hippo!

This school year, our class mascot is actually a… Hippo hand puppet  therefore,I just told them that Hippo would like to share one of his adventures in a London park, with them!

They ALL wanted to take part in the story!

Our special friends!

Our special headbands!

I followed Margarita’s suggestions and I had them participate throughout the story. They took turns to wear the headbands, repeat the lines and play out the content of the story as I was reading the lines out.

They actually found it really easy to remember specific lines and expressions!

Even today , a month later, they use them in class and.. surprise me!

They say:” Oh, dear!” when I tell them  there’s not enough time for a second game or ” What’s the matter?” when I look sad or angry..They also say ” Help” ,”Pull”, ” Hip-hip Hooray” and so many more, in unpredictable moments during our lessons!

Here are some photos from my class…..








Thanks, Margarita for your creative work and all the inspiration on storytelling!Keep amazing us!



Using puppets in our English class

Puppets are a great resource to align creativity, inspiration, flexibility and humour in language teaching.  We don’t have to buy puppets. We  can create them with our students.



Cambridge ” Hippo” book series puppet: my most favourite puppet ever! I have been using it mainly in private tutoring, with huge success!


I believe everybody can use puppets with some practice.

Creating sketches with the raffling of characters, places, and situations is an effective way to mix creativity with language. Students are usually very proud of their memorable creations and watching their presentation is definitely a pleasure.

I personally use puppets , to practice grammar rules in a more lighthearted way, to review content with humor and to go back to challenging textbook points that are explained by the puppet or to the puppet.


Some of my favourite IKEA puppets.


The most important thing I do in class,  is to say: “Our puppet doesn’t know your language. He only understands and speaks English.” so that students will try to use English in class.

This tip is especially important for allowing an emotional connection with the puppet. I create a world for the puppet.  I mean, give some imaginary details about him, as if he had a family, and came from England. I talk about his likes/dislikes. Sometimes you can bring some other puppets to class so that you can show them as your puppet’s friends. For example, when I  use my Hippo puppet with my homeschooled students, I  tell them that Hippo comes  from London and his family is  still back there. He  travels  to see them every Christmas , Easter and Summer holidays .They can see his family  ” photos” in our flashcards and from time to time,they are able to meet some of  Hippo’s friends – other animal puppets- who  come and see him here in Greece, visiting our English class, too!


mosaic feelings new puppet

I use my puppets mainly ,  in storytelling! Especially with my 1st ,2nd to bring stories to life or even my 3rd graders, to present the stories in our coursebook! I memorize or familiarize myself with the dialogue and present this to the class afterwards , letting the puppets develop a personality.

I check for understanding by asking simple  questions . Depending on the age of the group, you can ask questions as the teacher or as the puppet.

I instantly become an actor in order to convey meaning for any new language being taught.  In order to communicate with beginning  level students, I use  clear gestures and realia were essential. These help create a context for the language so the students can grasp the meaning. As puppets act out the language, children become motivated to learn because the puppets bring animation and fun to the  English lesson.

Today’s children are so used to having visual cues that enhance their learning, as in TV and online classrooms, that they need lessons which combine visual with auditory learning. They are much more motivated and seem to engage more quickly when they can watch and listen to an actual demonstration of the new language they are learning. As a result,I have realized that,  having puppets and animated teaching as part of my lesson makes  the language come alive in our  English classroom.


Τeaching with puppets!

Presenting the 3rd graders’ book story of Lady Decay in class, using my favourite puppets!

What I usually do, is what I’m  suggesting  here that you should also do…..

Start telling your story first .It is important to use a different voice for the puppet if he is a talking puppet rather than your normal voice.  Put your characters on your fingers, and wiggle them as you tell the story. Speak in silly voices, make the characters move and play as you tell the story. Children love when you add effects. Throw in storm sounds, wind sounds, animal noises, sing silly songs and any thing else you can add to the atmosphere. Use whiteboard drawings scenery to allow the children to get more involved in the story. Make sure they know you are enjoying telling the story because they can tell if you don’t like what you are doing. If they see our  excitement, then they will enjoy it even more.

Another use of dramatic play I do , is to take a coursebook  story or fairy tale the class has read and turn it into a skit.

I  put students in groups of two to four and have them present their  short puppet skit ,with each person controlling one puppet.

They enjoy having their own puppets. To serve this purpose, in the beginning of the term I hand out the sheets of different finger puppets to my students. They cut and colour them. I also give envelopes for keeping paper finger puppets in. When we read stories, they act out their own version of the story using these puppets. They also create dialogues with the puppets. You can find paper puppets on the internet, too .

Needless to say that , first I allow class time for puppet creation or even  assign it as homework!
Finger puppets are an inexpensive and fun activity for my students!Also,  I  personally use many puppets I have  bought from IKEA which  instantly became favorite toys in class . The IKEA puppets are animals (they have many different kinds) and they also sell finger puppets – which are also cute but I find them difficult to play with.

My students are encouraged to create their own handmade finger puppets!

My students are encouraged to create their own handmade finger puppets!


There are so many different ideas for puppets you could use in your own class, too …some examples are:

Use a pattern for the most basic   hand puppets  to create many characters as you need them.I always do so with almost all the 3rd graders coursebook fairy tale characters.

Attach pie plates or paper plates to rulers or sticks for quick and easy stick puppets.

Use the cardboard rolls from paper towels to create “throwaway” puppets.

Paper bags make puppets with mouths – decorate with scraps of felt and yarn.

Simple marionette puppets can be made by drawing a large figure on stiff card. Cut off the head, arms and legs. Re-attach each piece with a brad fastener. Attach a separate string to each of the parts (you can attach the free ends to a coat hanger). Then pull each string individually to see the puppet move.


Peter Pan and Goldilocks, are bringing the book story into life, in our class ...Fairytale Forest!

Peter Pan and Goldilocks, are bringing the book story into life, in our class …Fairytale Forest!


I have brought in my class, one of my daughter’s puppet theatres! But, from time to time, I also use different other types of puppet theatres. Some examples are:

Box Puppet Theatre
There are a few ways to make your own puppet theatre. The simplest is to cover a
low table with a blanket or tablecloth and hide behind it.

Temporary Puppet Theatre
You can also make a temporary puppet theatre out of things you have
around the classroom or at home…. eg 2 sturdy chairs ,a broom handle or thick dowel ,string ,a sheet, blanket or tablecloth

Card  box Puppet Theatre
You can make your own shadow puppet theatre out of a cardboard box.


Students, usually work in pairs to present their stories ,using hand or finger puppets.

Students, usually work in pairs to present their stories ,using hand or finger puppets.

All in all, what we can  use a puppet for in class?

-for introducing new vocabulary and sentence structures
– for repeating and deepening knowledge
– for storytelling
– for singing songs
– for playing action games
– for creating rhymes
– for creating authentic situations through dialogues between teacher and puppet

Remember that puppeteering is an art and there isn’t a right way to do it. 

Puppets are very powerful. I have also discovered that children learn much better if they’re having fun, (it’s obvious really) and we all  learn best through games and fun activities!

This is our most favourite class handmade puppet! Meet Irene (Peace, in greek)! Our language ambassador which was sent to our partners in Taiwan along with our "Doves of Peace" letters to help them know more about Greece and the greek language!

This is our most favourite class handmade puppet! Meet Irene (Peace, in greek)! Our language ambassador which was sent to our partners in Taiwan along with our “Doves of Peace” letters to help them know more about Greece and the greek language!

DARE TO USE PUPPETS in your English lessons ! It’s so much worth the effort!

This post and my suggestions here about using puppets in class, have  been inspired by the  amazing blogger  and colleague Juan Alberto Lopez Uribe , and his really  inspiring Blog http://childrenlearningenglishaffectively.blogspot.com which is highly recommended  to follow !

I always try to apply interesting ideas I find online or know about in seminars,  in my class and see if they work for me, before I share them with my PLN! Juan’s ideas worked wonders in our English class and I have to thank him for that!

This is one of my most favourite resource books which has really helped me a lot on using  puppets in my class. It is therefore, highly recommended! https://elt.oup.com/catalogue/items/global/teacher_development/teaching_with_bear/?cc=global&selLanguage=en

Speaking and storytelling

Lizzie Pinard

In a recent post, I outlined a collaborative writing activity for consolidating past simple and past continuous tense use. In that post, I briefly mentioned a possible follow up activity, using learner generated content and focusing on selected elements of spoken narrative. Since then, I’ve done just that with my pre-intermediate learners, and found it worked well, so I thought I’d share what I did with it here…

Time: 45 minutes (depending on class size/group size)

Materials: Cut up structural elements of spoken narrative and their linguistic realisations. (See example here ) (With higher levels, previously, I’ve cut up all the chunks individually but with my pre-ints I cut the chunks up in groups, so they had to match groups of chunks with the function rather than individual chunks, to provide more scaffolding)

Focus: Chunks of language used to structure stories when told orally (rather than…

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