February 16, 2012

Teaching English to children with puppets!


Today I am talking about one of my passions: puppeteering. 

I have noticed that many language teachers do not use puppets frequently in their classes. I believe this    
 might be because they are afraid of using puppets, don't know what exactly they can do with them, or might think their students would not engage in the proposed activities. I believe everybody can use puppets with some practice. Here I share some hints on how you can bring life to your puppets! 

Remember that puppeteering is an art and there isn't a right way to do it. 
I'm just sharing some hints  that have worked for me in my classes with both children and adults. 

But before that, a little Wikipedia moment: 








Puppetry is a form of theatre or performance which involves the manipulation of puppets. It is very ancient, and is believed to have originated 30,000 years BC. Puppetry takes many forms but they all share the process of animating inanimate performing objects. Puppetry is used in almost all human societies both as an entertainment – in performance – and ceremonially in rituals and celebrations such as carnivals. Most puppetry involves storytelling. 







Puppets can go from a simple string to giant craned operated dolls. Check here 32 different types of puppets that I have shared in a previous post. 

·      Puppets can be held in a way that they directly face the students. Hiding your hand can be done by using your arm, knee, a piece of cloth, or using a table. Sometimes I hide myself behind the puppet in order to hide my mouth. In this way they become more real. 

·      Bringing your puppet to life can be done by the sequence of breathing, guttural sounds, moving, talking, and dancing. A rehearsed choreography is also a good idea, as you won't need to think about the next movement when you are performing. Puppets can also wink, snore, jump, burp, be shy, tell you a secret, have hiccups, etc. These unexpected actions surprise the audience and add even more personality to the puppet. A catch phrase to be frequently repeated is a delicious treat!




The presentation of the puppet is an important moment as it sets the tone for the interaction. I believe that coming with a problem to be solved is a good way to engage students. I personally avoid the "I’m Billy, I’m 5 years old" approach as it doesn’t bring a complex character and children might feel they are being patronized.

·         Props are a fantastic way to bring a plot to scene. Even a simple thing as a ball can be great fun when paired with a fork! The student’s objects can be brought to action as props that need to be used to solve problems.


· Puppets are a great resource to align creativity, inspiration, flexibility and humour in language teaching. Here I share some ways in which  teachers and students can share their class with puppets: 

·      Language can be very rich in the making process as instructions involve sequences of actions and materials. In the case of scripted plays, stories can be  read, adapted, and rehearsed.

·      Puppets do not need to necessarily speak as they can only be taken care of. Here teachers and the students give commands and exchange advice about what should be done to guarantee the well being of the puppet.

·      Puppets can read aloud, retell stories, tell their versions, and give their   opinion of recent events. Puppets can also play games, tell jokes, try tonguetwisters, lipsynch to a song, and present the news. They sometimes also refilm ads or great movie classics.


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.

The triangle is a theatrical technique in which the puppet says something strange, the manipulator looks at the puppet, the audience, and finally at the puppet again. It can also be reversed.



·      Puppets can also be used to practice grammar rules in a more lighthearted way, to review content with humor and to go back to challenging grammatical points that are explained by the puppet or to the puppet. 

·      Puppets can help students to give feedback and disclose their feelings more openly about how the see their development and their relationship with the language. Teachers can use puppets to give advice on how to learn or to express concerns about discipline. 

·      Last but not least, puppets can be used to show students different realities, as things students like doing, their environments, or even be taken in adventures as when Buddy went ballooning: 









      Hope you have enjoyed it! 
       Happy Puppeteering!



       Buddy and I send you a big frog-hug, 
        
        Juan 



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