Tuesday, 26 March 2013

How to Teach Using Puppets


Using Puppets to Teach
Puppets are a great medium to help kids learn all kinds of things from counting and the alphabet to social skills and storytelling.
Whether you are thinking of using puppets to teach kids in a school setting, a club or at home, this article will help you get the most out of your puppets and your children.
I have used puppets in education for decades and with kids of all ages too - including teenagers - and I can tell you now that the puppet is one of the most powerful tools you can have in your educational tool kit.
So what makes puppets such useful educational tools?
Kids Performing Puppet Show
Even the shy kids come out of their shells when they have the chance to express themselves via a puppet they have made.
Puppets Help Kids Relate

Puppets help everyone in the classroom to relate.
Children who are already confident are given a form of expression that allows them to show off in a positive way, a way that makes a contribution to the class as a whole and can be enjoyed by everyone.
"As teachers, we thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to communicate with and instruct our students using the unique language of puppetry. We found that with puppets in hand, we were much more dramatic and entertaining teachers, and in turn, our students really appreciated sharing those learning opportunities with us. It was mutually beneficial."
Amy Wallace, Brooklyn College.
Children who are already shy discover a way of expressing themselves without the heat being on them, as all eyes and ears are turned on the puppet. Thus they build confidence to speak and share ideas.
The teacher can help bridge the gap between herself and her perhaps very young pupils by talking to a puppet. The children can identify with the puppet and gain confidence with the teacher as they witness the puppet's positive relationship with the teacher.
This relational dimension is one of the most important general ways in which puppets can be used to teach. They help in breaking down barriers and building strong links and channels of communication between the teacher and the students and among the students themselves.
This is especially important with younger kids. Building good communication is the keystone to all effective educational activities.

Ways to Use Puppets In Class
Learning requires concentration. Contrary to the popular image of someone concentrating being of their face all screwed up and very tense, real concentration is best achieved when you are relaxed, happy and have your interest highly aroused.
If you watch kids involved in free play, you will see that they are deeply concentrated on what they are doing but they are completely relaxed and happy. They can be so concentrated that when you call them in for dinner, they genuinely don't hear you. Have you ever been so involved in a good book, that you didn't hear someone talking to you? Its the same thing.
Getting kids to simply force themselves to learn things by rote and memory, maintaining quiet in the classroom by the raised voice of the teacher, are terrible ways to encourage an atmosphere in which real concentration - and therefore learning - can be possible!
Of course, learning needs discipline and order, too but discipline and order come naturally when there is a chosen common purpose, a sense of belonging and good communication. The classroom puppet can help with all of this.
Puppets can help engender the kind of relaxed atmosphere and co-operation that creates natural concentration and effortless discipline and consequently powerful learning experiences. Primarily - apart from being funny and responsive - they achieve this through role modelling.


Puppets As Role Models in Education
Most young children learn the rules of engagement and behavior by simply seeing, hearing and mimicking the behavior of those around them.
They will adopt the behavior patterns of people they know, trust and like, above all. They will also seek to please and gain the approval of those people that they deem worthy of their admiration. They will, by nature, only co-operate under duress with those that they mistrust.
Consequently, building a trusting relationship in class is essential to creating a positive learning environment. The class puppet can really help with that.

Puppet Show in School


FEMA - 'After the Hurricane' - a project using puppets to help children address crisis and cope with trauma.

As we have just said, a natural learning strategy that children have - for absorbing social skills, language and information - is the simple act of observation and imitation.
Small children frequently play out roles and conversations with their soft toys. Teachers can use this simple fact to enable a 'three dimensional dialogue' to take place in the classroom.
As children are able to identify with the puppet they are happy to model the puppet's behavior.

Puppets As Classroom Buddies
Many studies have shown that puppets can be very effective tools for addressing specific issues with individual students' needs.
Unruly, defiant students, when given the responsibility of assisting a puppet to take part and listen attentively in class, frequently respond very well, modifying their behavior hugely in order to remodel the caring behavior that others have shown to them in order to help the puppet.

The responsibility of just having the puppet can also help focus and minimize distraction. Such children will normally achieve much better by being given responsibility.
In my 20 years experience of going into classrooms, the best thing to do with a disruptive student is smile and relax down (you have to be totally unfazed) and straight away - with no sarcasm or reproach at all - invite the student to help in an important task. 99% of the time that student then becomes a keystone in the success of the whole session.
A student who rarely engages verbally, responding to questions or volunteering, either because of shyness or a speech impediment, will often speak openly and creatively when you talk not directly to her but to her puppet. She is also more likely to respond to the puppet's question than to that of the teacher directly.
Students who typically find it difficult to engage in quiet, independent reading are often able to fulfil that task easily when asked to read to their puppet. In one study, such students were even observed employing the same teaching strategies that they had experienced, with their puppets, thus reinforcing their own learning.
Written tasks are often completed more successfully by first graders if they can 'share' the work with a puppet.
Simply, life is easier when you have a 'buddy' to share it with and learning is easier if you can teach someone else what you know. In the imagination-rich world of the child, a puppet can make a really good classroom 'buddy.'
Watch the following short video for an amazing insight into the power of puppetry in education:

Puppets In Education



Puppets And Multi-sensory Learning
·         Hand and Head
Multi-sensory experience is the most powerful way for children to learn.
If they can engage all their senses, being stimulated and involved visually, aurally and through touch and movement in what they are doing, they will learn almost without effort.
Puppets are a perfect way of engaging the children's senses in learning: they move, they are colorful and tactile. They also help to engage the child at an emotional level which helps imprint the learning in memory.
·         Puppets and Empowerment
Shyness, under-confidence and uncertainty in how to express themselves can lead many children to miss out on learning by avoiding direct engagement with others and with the lesson. In cases of that nature, the puppet can empower the child by providing her with a voice, a bridge and an 'alter ego' through which to express herself.



Puppets And Multi-sensory Learning
·         Hand and Head
Multi-sensory experience is the most powerful way for children to learn.
If they can engage all their senses, being stimulated and involved visually, aurally and through touch and movement in what they are doing, they will learn almost without effort.
Puppets are a perfect way of engaging the children's senses in learning: they move, they are colorful and tactile. They also help to engage the child at an emotional level which helps imprint the learning in memory.
·         Puppets and Empowerment
Shyness, under-confidence and uncertainty in how to express themselves can lead many children to miss out on learning by avoiding direct engagement with others and with the lesson. In cases of that nature, the puppet can empower the child by providing her with a voice, a bridge and an 'alter ego' through which to express herself.


Kids Puppet Making Workshop
Kids at the end of a wooden spoon puppet making workshop at a school in Florence. Easy and effective, they were all really proud of their work.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)

What Are The Best Puppets To Use In Teaching?
The best puppets to use in teaching are the ones best suited to whatever it is you wish to achieve.
There are some very reasonably priced, high quality finger and glove puppets on the market these days and you can either buy a theatre or make one out of cardboard. These puppets would be the 'class puppets' and be kept in a special place. They can then be used for storytelling, role-play and other learning activities.
Equally, the kids can make puppets - the personal investment they have in the characters they have made themselves cannot be overestimated.
One of my favorite methods for making puppets with kids is to use wooden spoons. They are quick, easy and great fun.
The face is painted or drawn onto the spoon's 'head.' Hair can be wool or fur fabric.The body is simply some old fabric stuck on with glue, stapled (by the teacher!) or quicker - and just as effective - with an elastic band around the puppet's 'neck.'
Hands can be simple cardboard cut outs.
These puppets are great - you'll be amazed at the cool characters the kids come up with!
There are great larger scale soft puppets, professionally made and inexpensive that are superb for presentations, or being 'the class puppet' or putting on a show for the whole school.

How To Use Puppets In The Classroom




Great Resources For How To Teach With Puppets
·         PlaybackSchools - Puppets In Class
Loads of great videos by teachers for teachers about using puppets to teach.
·         The Puppetry Home Page
The Puppetry Home Page is dedicated to international puppetry and lists puppetry information and resources.


2 comments:

  1. This is great! This year I am teaching primary school age children on Saturdays at this city's Lithuanian school. I am not a trained teacher - my area of expertise being arts/crafts. I have made 2 Lithuanian flag colour dolls/puppets which I want to use in the language class. I don't know Lithuanian and few of the children speak it at home. I thought the puppets could act as intermediary "buddies" to help us all learn the language. That way I can get the puppet to laugh at me for getting things wrong. I want the children to give the puppets a name. I made a boy and a girl puppet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ilzi!

      Thanks so much for your comment. I think that sounds like a great idea. I am sure that the puppets could really help with the communication and language learning.

      Be patient with the process and give it time to come together.

      Maybe a bit further down the line you could make puppets with the kids and have them do some short plays or sketches, too.

      All the best and do drop back in and let me know how you get on if you have the opportunity.

      :-D

      Delete

All comments and contributions to the discussion are welcome! And I always reply to comments, too.