When I first started, I didn't have any puppets in my classroom - heck I didn't have anything in my classroom! The only things I had were chairs, tables, a few raggedy books, and a small pile of even more raggedy toys. Most things had to go in the trash because they were so grungy or broken. Since I needed everything, puppets were not high on my list!
Then one day, as I was
As soon as I put him on my hand and he started "talking", there was an automatic suspension of disbelief in the room. Every single kid bought into that bear! As he talked and asked questions, the kids eagerly responded. At one point I was very tempted to say "You do know this is a puppet, don't you?" but I didn't want to spoil the magic!
And it was magic. These kiddos were still at an age were they could believe in something, even when they saw that their teacher's hand was up the puppet and her lips were moving! They squirmed around on the rug like little puppies, so eager to get a chance to talk to Teddy. When it was time to go home, several wanted to hug him good-bye! The next morning, the first thing they asked was "Is Teddy still here?"
Teddy was so popular I even gave him a little basket where kiddos could put letters that they wrote to him - kiddos who weren't enthusiastic writers were suddenly very interested in writing to Teddy!
So, that decided me. If one puppet could generate that much interest, what could a whole slew of puppets do?! So I wrote a Donorschoose grant for this puppet theater and a ton of puppets. Here are some of the ones I received:
Our puppet theater was in almost constant use from the day we got it. As you know, I have an hour of free choice center time every day. Puppet center was always one of the first to fill up! The great thing about this puppet theater is that it folds up for easy storage. I kept all of our puppets in a rubbermaid bin. Sometimes the kids would make up their own stories - especially with the generic kid puppets, but often they would reenact stories from books - particularly with the storybook sets. Some of the shyest kids were the best thespians - even my ELL kiddos were actively engaged in retelling. I saw so much growth in vocabulary and story sequencing!
Here are some of the benefits of puppet play:
Relieves inhibitions - being screened by the puppet theater can sometimes allow shy children to overcome their inhibitions to take part in a performance. Communicating through the puppet's personality may relieve some of their anxiety about speaking in front of a group.
Expands imagination - children are making up rules, roles and situations for their puppets - often their scenarios show an incredible amount of imagination.
Builds oral language skills - as children invent stories, create settings and develop characters they will naturally begin to use more expressive language.
Promotes empathy - as children take on the characters of the puppets they start to think about how the puppets would feel/react. They can also work out fears, frustrations and anger issues through the puppets!
Improves comprehension skills - as students retell stories they improve their comprehension skills as they focus on the plot of the play.
I hope that these benefits will convince you to bring puppets into your classroom if you don't have them yet!
If you don't have a puppet center, check out my Pinterest Puppet Center board - lots of ideas for how to make inexpensive ones yourself! I'll continue to add to it as I find neat puppet ideas - you don't have to purchase expensive puppets in order to engage the kiddos.
Although, I am entirely in love with these Folkmanis puppets:
In case you missed it, Greg from Smedley's Smorgasboard of Learning had a fun post about how he uses a puppet to ensure proper line procedure - read it here.
I told you above that I stored my puppets in a rubbermaid tub. As you might imagine, that was not a stellar storage solution. Inevitably all of the puppets got dumped out, creating a huge mess as students tried to find a particular puppet. When I vetoed dumping the tub out, students tended to use only the puppets on top of the tub - thus inhibiting their creativity. I really wanted a way to display my puppets, but I didn't want to pay an arm and a leg for display rack. Then, on a trip to Home Depot, I got some inspiration and decided to make my own!
I bought 3 dowel rods and a 4' x 1' pine board - for a total of $22
My husband used a saw to cut the dowels into twelve 9in segments.
I arranged them on the board to figure out where I wanted them - I tried to do the math first, but ended up just having to use the rods to map out the space and then measured and marked. My husband drilled holes in both the rods and boards and routered the edge of the board.
See the routered edge? I painted the boards and rods using paint I had already purchased to paint a book display in my room, so that didn't cost me any extra!
Then my husband screwed the whole thing together:
Not bad for $22, right?
Here it is with puppets on it - I love that I can display my animal puppets in between the rods.
And here's Teddy, all ready for a new class of kiddos!
Side note: I just added two new Center Packs to my TPT store: Sherbert Dots and Chevrons! The matching pocket chart cards will be up soon! Here's how the puppet signs look: