I’m a huge advocate of technology; however, it would be mad to forget the one thing - well two actually- that consistently engages my pupils every day.... puppets!
I’ve recently moved from a Year 6 class to Year 2. This initially daunting move was made slightly easier by the realisation that KS1 would likely fall for the magic that the puppets were alive... I was wrong! For children to respect the puppets it is important for them to develop a trust. So, I decided to introduce the puppet to them. I retold the story about how we met. However, as I finished the story, one of my boys quite rightly pointed out that the ‘teddy’ on my lap had a hole in the back of its head where I controlled it with my hand.' Caught out by a 6 year old! What next...? As I came back from lunch, the children were just packing away some bits in the classroom due to it being too hot outside - Dubai school problems! That’s when I noticed it. The same child who previously caught me out, now retelling a story of how he knew the puppet and what their relationship was - got ‘em!
A Class Mascot
As my children build a rapport with the puppet, they now find it greatly satisfying to recap prior learning and teach it what they have learned. This works well as an assessment strategy. Strangely, the puppet answers questions wrong. The children now use logical reasoning and explanation skills to show why and how it is wrong. This strategy works well as a hook but also as an extension to unlock greater ‘Blooms Taxonomy' style ways of thinking.
First, understand the puppet: what it can and can’t do. Can the mouth open? Can the limbs move or is it simply a teddy? In any case, use it to develop your oral storytelling. Whilst you can use silly voices, I often find getting the puppet to ‘whisper’ parts of the story to me and relay information back to the class has children more gripped, making them want to hear more.
In my International School, there is a high percentage of children with English as an additional language (EAL). In this case, I use puppets to demonstrate correct pronunciation of words as my accent sometimes gets in the way. Children now find it a privilege to read to the class puppet during quiet reading times. I must point out that my year 6 class last year did often enjoy me retelling stories from the puppets too!
Children in my class know that the puppet is looking out for good behaviour throughout each lesson and will often whisper the names of those with exceptional behaviour. Additionally, the puppet chooses someone it would like to go with at the end each week for exceptional circumstances, behaviour or any reason outlined at the start of the week it works a treat!
Mental health awareness is a priority in schools. Puppetry lends itself well to aiding mental health. In my class, children who come into school with negative feelings (anxiety, stress) benefit well from looking after the puppet, almost like a teddy or pet. When someone struggles to control their own feelings, puppets are one thing that they are able to control. Therefore, some of my children find puppets a form of comfort, controlling their negative thoughts. If children in my class find it hard to express their feelings, some children find it easier to voice their concerns through the puppet.
These are just a few ways which I use puppets to enhance my children’s experience in school. I will be creating a video on YouTube going more into depth on this topic via my channel. I look forward to hearing your messages and comments on the creative ways you have started to implement puppetry in your classes and hope you all have fun introducing your class to a brand new friend!
With a keen interest in the neuroscience and psychology of learning, WAGOLL Teaching is about sharing research alongside great, simple teaching ideas to a global teaching community.
Ben has been in education for over 10 years and is passionate about simplifying high quality teaching and learning through innovative and practical approaches in the classroom.