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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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