Puppetry – A FAB A-GE and Tool for Teaching!

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus to feature another of the FAB 15 A-GEs – attention-getting elements that teachers can get their hands on to motivate and instruct students…

"Meet my friend, Gaggy, the Gorilla. He's going to help me share a super story about his life in the jungle."

“Meet my friend, Gaggy, the Gorilla. He’s going to help me share a super story about his life in the jungle.”

A-GE #14 – Puppetry & Personification

The curtain will soon open on these magical means of reaching children, but first here’s a recap of the benefits that A-GEs offer. Count them…8…and they’re great!

Teaching tools and tricks that incorporate attention-getting elements, including puppetry & personification can be used to 1) begin class with a high energy level, 2) introduce units of study, 3) hold a class’ interest in lessons and activities, 4) keep kids focused and on task in groups and independently, 5) prevent lost time during transitions, 6) promote healthy lifestyles and good character, 7) promote world knowledge and interest in protecting vital natural resources, 8) encourage curiosity and critical thinking and model and encourage a love of learning.

Attentionology has explored thirteen of the FAB 15 elements so far…1) attracting appearance & presence 2) enthusiasm 3) voice 4) eye-catching visuals 5) word choice 6) color 7) music 8 entertainment 9) interaction 10) humor 11) surprise 12) dramatic movement 13) imagination.

It’s fitting that the word MASTER is often associated with PUPPETRY. Big furry animal puppets are kid favorites for sure; they’re MASTERS at catching and keeping attention. Just picture the world-famous – some furry – Muppets from the US-based Sesame Street.

But, even the smallest, simplest animated paper figure on a stick can grab kids’ focus and help them MASTER important knowledge and skills when a teacher moves the little puppet with her hand. Let’s set the stage for you to use puppets as new teaching tools…

Opening Act…the good news that inexpensive puppets are available in many dollar, craft and toy stores. No need to make your own unless you choose to.

More good news… you can add a hat or place props in a puppet’s hands to tailor use to your lesson plans and classroom management strategies. For example, when you want to compliment your class on a job well done, you can slip a puppet on your hand, grab a large cardstock star, make the puppet dance and tell the class with your adopted puppet voice, “Great job today. Give yourselves a round of applause!”

Do you have to be a master puppeteer to use puppets in school? Absolutely not! It does help to understand why they are so effective…

Puppets have amazing powers! Puppets can:

1) bring stories to life, helping children with comprehension and retention.

2) engage children who have trouble expressing themselves because the puppet is fun and non-threatening.

3) say things that people are afraid to express. “I’m scared,” isn’t so scary when a puppet confesses fear. Children may more readily admit their true feelings with a puppet in hand than without one.

4) motivate children with difficulties in specific subjects. “Spanish is hard for me,” breaks barriers when a teacher makes a puppet “share a struggle.” Children respond with

"Spanish is hard for me," says Little Bear." Students respond with relief that they're not alone when they struggle in school.

“Spanish is hard for me,” says Little Bear. Students respond with relief that they’re not alone when they struggle in school.

relief, thinking, “I’m so glad that I’m not alone with my own trouble learning!”

5) help children deal with difficult aspects of their experience, like how to handle bullies in school.

6) be made to symbolize important lessons. For example, a folded piece of construction paper with bent corners can symbolize a book that hasn’t been cared for by readers. Tape or staple two paper handles to the back of each side; give the “book” a voice other than your own, and you’ve made a puppet that can quickly and easily deliver a powerful message.

7) help with classroom management, encouraging desirable behaviors, reminding students of expectations. The fun of puppets “greases the wheels” of students’ receptivity to self-discipline.

Teachers can use puppets any way they choose to interest children in the study of many subjects. One puppet can serve as a teaching aid in many subjects ranging across the elementary school curriculum.

I recommend using hand puppets that you can slip on in a flash. Make them “partners” with other teaching materials that you regularly use, such as books, posters, maps, videos, etc.

Remember the attention-getting element that puppets bring to your teaching table. When you make a puppet focus on a book, for example, students will follow the puppet’s lead. Magic – you’ve turned the attention of your class where you want it to be!

Puppets can help children learn about themselves and the world around them. Famous characters like England’s Punch and Judy have delivered instructive stories to entranced audiences for centuries. Mr. Punch still packs a punch in his 351 years performing. Learning about puppets from different countries is a great way to introduce diverse cultures to your class. Take a virtual trip with Google and discover Javanese wayang kulit (shadow puppets) in Indonesia; Russia’s Petrushka, a folk puppet made famous by the 1911 ballet by the same name with music by Igor Stravinsky. Visit a South African street to see large dancing string puppets. In India, the history of puppetry is linked by scholars to a 4000-year old character called Sutradhara (the holder of strings) in Sanskrit plays. The world of puppetry is wide and wonderful!

Teaching with puppets, you’ll benefit from using crafty crowd-pleasers. The most pleasing way to use animated characters is when you choose puppets for the most important stage of all – your classroom.

Have fun with this handy attention-getting element. Your students will quickly respond, maybe even with applause, but certainly by paying attention!

A black hat can personify the magic of teaching and the fun of learning.

A black hat can personify the magic of teaching and the fun of learning.

Let’s save puppetry’s co-element of personification for an upcoming post. We can personify the magic of teaching and the fun of learning with a familiar black hat.

Meanwhile, please send pictures of puppets you use as teaching tools and your comments!

Hope you’ll take a seat here on Monday for another Attentionology for K-5 Teachers! 

Talk with you soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet


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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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Situation: Students continue to use lackluster verbs in their writing.

Solution: Show toy cars and pretend to make them zip across a page, telling the class that good writing includes action words (verbs) that have "zip." Ask the class for examples of "zippy" verbs like zoom, race, flash, rush, etc.

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