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Writing Activities: Year 4

Hippo and barbel fish

Hippos are the third-largest land mammals on earth; only elephants and rhinoceroses are bigger. Although hippos are called land mammals (because they can walk on land) they actually spend their days in lakes and rivers. In fact the word ‘hippopotamus’ comes from the ancient Greek for ‘river horse’. Despite this name, hippos are more closely-related to whales and dolphins than they are to horses.

Barbel fish are named for the two ‘barbels’ on each side of their mouths. Barbels are whisker-like organs covered in taste-buds that the fish use to find food.

In this clip, we see how barbel fish help hippos by cleaning their skin, removing scraps of food from the hippos’ teeth, and even eating their poo!


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Credit: BBC Two – Natural World

Literacy idea

Write a persuasive advert to persuade hippos to come for a day at the Barbel Fish Spa. What treatments are on offer and how do they help a hippo?

Include imperative verbs: “Come to the Barbel Fish Spa to be pampered. Try out the …”

Remember to use persuasive adjectives and similes, e.g. “Have an incredible day at the spa. Your skin will shine like the sun reflecting on the Limpopo river.”

Remember to use rhetorical questions. For example: “Do you want to feel amazing?” or “Are you tired of having to clean your own teeth?”

Include a slogan, e.g. ‘The Barbel Fish Spa: Helping Hippo Happiness.’

Wider curriculum idea

Turn your advert text into a poster advertising the Barbel Fish Spa. Remember to include the name of the spa and images that show off the treatments that it offers.