Teach with Puppets – Crafty Crowd-Pleasers!

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

Look at the little bear learning to read and speak Spanish in my blog pic here and see if you agree with me that a puppet can be a perfect teacher’s assistant!

"Bebe" needs help learning Spanish

Puppets have a fascinating history worldwide. You may have heard of the famous English puppet duo – Punch and Judy. Perhaps you’ve folded your fingers over your thumb to form a shadow puppet that looks like a biting crocodile against a solid sunlit wall. The most famous shadow puppets come from Indonesia. Pop up stick puppets are popular in Central and South American cultures and across the globe in Europe, stuffed fabric animals and doll-like characters have entertained children and adults for generations. In African nations and in other parts of the world, too, some puppets are the size of the people who operate them. And then of course, there are the world-famous round-faced residents of a certain street in New York City.

Here’ s the most important tip that teachers need to know about using puppets to catch and keep K – 5 kids’ attention…It’s easy to do! 

Why? Because all it takes to bring a puppet to life is a little bit of hand action and a voice that’s different from your own. No professional theater training required for this magical teaching trick!

I’ve used puppets successfully without even hiding my face from the audience. Look again at the way I’m holding the little bear behind the Spanish language book in my blog pic above. When I make this bear – his name is “Bebe” – talk to my students (or campers, or church school group, or…you get the idea that you can use puppets in any children’s program) I look at the bear, not at the class. When I’m speaking in my regular voice, I look directly at the children. The children follow my eyes so when “Bebe’s” voice is “on” the children are focused on the little fur ball; they don’t care that my mouth is moving to make the bear speak.

Of course, if you want to use a theater of some sort to hide yourself when you’re teaching with a puppet or two, you can do that. Let’s save theater design and simple puppet-making for other blogs; even simple stage settings can be effective attention-getting tools to use with easy-to-make puppets. For now, we’ll stick with how you can use inexpensive-to-buy puppets to help kids master a wide range of skills.

Be aware that puppets as teaching tools can be effective with a wide age range of children, depending on the puppets you choose to use and the “dialog” you create for interacting with your students. “Bebe” is obviously appropriate for the early grades.

One of the best tricks to use with puppets is to ask children to kindly help a character like “Bebe” with his learning. This approach is especially helpful to kids who need to build  skills, confidence and self-esteem. Why? Because when they discover that “Bebe” needs help learning Spanish, for example, they realize that they are not the only ones have difficulty with the subject. Puppets can be so reassuring! 

One teacher who attended one of my Puppetry for Teachers workshop some years ago was most impressed by the way puppets could reach his elementary level special needs students. Richard Labadia said, “Children with special educational needs should be taught in a manner that makes what they learn useful and part of the world they live in directly. This style of ‘functional’ teaching enables these children to grow and become an important part of today’s society.”

Labadia also described how effectively puppets beat boredom in educational settings that include special needs kids.  “Puppets can teach a concept over and over, and still get a response,” he asserted.

All elementary school-age children seem to feel free to communicate with puppets. Try one on your hand; pick a subject to teach with the puppet, rehearse a little bit until you’re ready to open the door for your class to interact with an attention-getting aid like “Bebe.”

Enjoy the satisfaction of watching your kids learn your curriculum more effectively, learn about themselves as they interact with your puppet, and have fun in the process!

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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Posted in Attentionology for K-5 Teachers
Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
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