When I first started teaching English in Japan, we didn't have textbooks for elementary students. Then we had Eigo Noto. Now we have Hi, friends! When I first started, each lesson I taught at elementary school was unto itself - the never continued or related to each other. They were also very vocabulary focused. Grammar was an afterthought.

The fact of grammar being an afterthought meant that even as the vocabulary changed throughout the year, grammar tended to revolve around the word like.

When the textbooks came in, it was very difficult for me to see a "My name is ~." lesson taking two classes. But that's what Hi, friends! recommends. The thing is, I've come to see the benefit in these drawn out lessons.

Listening First

When you learn a language, even your first language, you learn to recognize a lot, either by listening or reading long before you can speak or write. We're talking about input versus output. Comprehension versus production.

This is a big thing because even though you do polish language skills through output, through a process of self-correction, you first learn them though the input phase. Children can recognize up to 500 words before they first start speaking. So, listening is important.

When you're using the Hi, friends! textbooks, there are more opportunities for listening than you might think.

Hi, friends! Chants

If you know the lyrics of the chant, you can think up simple questions for the students to answer. By assigning them questions to listen for before they hear the chant, it gives them specific points of information to pick out so they don't have to stress out trying to understand the whole thing.

It may feel like cheating, but you can also guide students through understanding what the chant is about. By having the class listen for key points of information and process that info as a class, they aren't just making sounds. They also understand the meaning behind the words.

For ideas on what questions you can ask before listening to a chant, have a look at the making Hi, friends! chants fun page.

Let's Listen

Each Let's Listen activity is different. Sometimes students are listening for information (like Hi, friends! 1, Lesson 1, Let's Listen 1). Sometimes they are listening to repeat (like in Hi, friends! 1, Lesson 1, Let's Listen 2).

The most important thing is that students don't feel pressured. In listening comprehension situations, success is valuable learning. Failure mean no progress. As teachers, we need to remember lessons are not tests.

One More Time

One way I try to help students feel more relaxed about listening activities is encourage them to ask to listen one more time. "One more time, please!" is a phrase I ask students to use right from the start and encourage each lesson.


Pre-listening activities are things like talking about what you are about to listen to; you give context. During Lesson 4 in Hi, friends! 1, the Let's Listen 1 activity has students linking 4 characters to pictures of things they like. Pre-listening in this case might include looking at the characters' names, talking about which things each of us like from the page, etc.

You can also quickly review some of the key words students are about to hear. Especially where they might be unexpected, like in the Hi, friends! 1 Lesson 2 Let's Listen activity, the "happy" and "fine" pictures are a little ambiguous. As teachers we want to challenge our students but should also remember success isn't them deciphering what the images are supposed to mean, it's in comprehending what they are hearing in a foreign language.


When I think about students speaking English, I think there are two versions of speaking: parroting and producing. The first has its place. You have to learn the mechanics of making the sounds. But production, when students are speaking to convey the meaning of their own ideas (simple and constrained by the activity as they may be), is where genuine learning or "language acquisition" occurs.


After you've listened to the chants and as a class developed a good understanding of what the chant is about, you can proceed with the actual chanting! This is parroting but as mentioned, parroting has its place. Once students are comfortable physically making the sounds of the words, they will be more comfortable producing them with meaning when they want to communicate.

Start with the slow version until students are calling for the normal speed version. Add gestures at some point. Get creative with slightly altered lyrics using the karaoke versions once students are competent. Again, see detailed tips on making Hi, friends! chants fun.

Hi, friends! Activities

The activities are usually chances for students to talk to each other in interview scenarios and collect information about each other. Later in the books, the activity sections start to become English writing sections. You've probably noticed, activities are about output and about real speaking (as well as listening actively).

Speaking Games

One of the biggest things that has made me appreciate the super slow pace of Hi, friends! is adding review to my lessons. I like to create fun and simple games that we can play at the start of any lesson to review previously studied content.

Some favorites are the Hidden Stationary Game (to practice asking "Do you have ~?") and the How Many Fingers Game, to practice numbers. This constant review really helps students bury that language deeper and deeper into their long term memory.

Reading and Writing

In the Hi, friends! 1 course, reading doesn't make an overt appearance until Lesson 6, when the ABCs are introduced. In Hi, friends! 2 reading shows up in Lesson 2 where students hunt for words and also get the chance to write them down.

Reading and writing doesn't make up a large part of the textbook but you can still include it in your lessons. Some ways you can do this include asking if students can read certain words, or asking if they can read the title of the lesson. Whenever the characters of the textbook show up with their names written below them, ask the students "Who is this?" while pointing to the name.

Writing can be things like students writing their own names. In Hi, friends! 1 Lesson 1, students are introducing themselves to each other. They write their own names. During the review part of following classes, I also give students some time to spell out their names for other students to write. It's a bit early in terms of the Hi, friends! lesson schedule (ABCs don't come till later) but many students already have an idea of the alphabet.

Take it Slow

When I first started with elementary English textbooks, I blew through them. One textbook lesson was done in one single 45 minute class. Now, with all the review we do, with all the group and pair discussions that precede any of the textbook activities, with all the extra little games scattered throughout lessons to make sure students are getting enough movement or to drill vocabulary, both Hi, friends! textbooks take me through a whole year. And I visit every school I have every week! (My first year in Japan, some small schools only got on the schedule once a month.)

It may take time to see it, but every activity in the Hi, friends! textbooks has merit. And often, each part of the textbook can be expanded on with valuable teacher-student interaction.

For example, the first two pages in Hi, friends! 1. This is a listening activity that could be completed in 10 minutes. To get the most from this page though, you can spend time with your students counting how many teachers there are. Then how many students. Then how many girls. Then how many boys. You might hear the students repeating words under their breath, words they hear you say, words like teacher, boy, red t-shirt.

When you listen, ask students who they want to listen to first. Phrase your questions carefully, in simple but real English while pointing and gesturing. Student will be learning as they listen and communicate with you about which name they want to hear first.

Hi, friends! may not be perfect but it is a pretty great resource if you have a TV and computer with the associated software. Take your time and try to get the most out of every activity. We've got a lot of activity ideas for Hi, friends! 1 and Hi, friends! 2. And if you've got any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

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