– Why are you not using puppets in class?
– We have no puppets.
They say that if you fold an A4 sheet of paper 103 times, its thickness will roughly be the size of the Universe. I don’t know whether anyone actually attempted to do that or not, but what I know for sure is that if you fold an A4 sheet 5 times, you will get a puppet head. And if you get one more sheet of paper, the head will get its body.
It feels great when your learners surprise you by enjoying something hard. It’s even greater when this ‘something’ unleashes their creative potential and helps personalise learning. And it’s more than great when it is time efficient and requires next to nothing – just a sheet of paper and a spoonful of imagination.
Quite often we leave puppets for very young learners assuming that older learners might consider puppets too babyish. Meanwhile, the benefits of using them in class are immense. “Puppets change the entire classroom by creating more possibilities for creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and curiosity. They give learners a (sometimes silly) voice and put them in the role of creator. They can also be a co-teacher, a physical avatar, a learning partner, and even facilitate learning by subverting the ego”. See 6 Reasons Why Puppets Will Change Your Classroom Forever.
DIY: Making a Puppet
What do we start with?
Take a sheet of paper and guide your learners through the steps as shown below:
Instead of glue to hold the folded parts of paper together (Step 2), you might use transparent adhesive tape (Step 5) – it helps save time and is way safer in the classroom.
Once your learners got a puppet head, they can turn it into a doggy, froggy or any other animal (for primary school kids),
or make a face (for teenagers and adults)
You may also add a body to your puppet head, or just use puppet heads. The process of puppet making is highly enjoyable and provides unlimited opportunities for learning and creative thinking.
For extra inspiration, check out these fascinating puppets designed by your fellow teachers
Activities with Puppets in Class
1. Making/acting out dialogues.
After your students have made their puppets, get them to think of their puppets’ names and introduce puppets to each other.
Say that you have a short quiz and ask your learners to jot down their answers.
- Think of any celebrity. Write down his/her first name.
- Write down the first colour name that comes to mind.
- Think of any country you would like to visit.
Now their puppets have a name (No.1), family name (No.2) and they are from ___(No.3). You can also introduce other details – jobs (used to do, is doing at the moment), likes or dislikes, what he or she did in the morning/afternoon/evening, etc.
2. Learning alphabet/vocabulary/pronunciation
Every puppet can be assigned a particular letter, or word, or sound. You can practise introductions with puppets, or ‘find the one who’-type of activities, or play games.
You don’t have to make new puppets; it is enough to make a set of adjustable cards by cutting a few zigzag folded strips.
Assign a letter (including the hyphen for compound words and the apostrophe if you plan to give phrases), or a few letters if you have a small group of students, to each student in your class (players).
Ask your students to imagine that their puppets are typewriter keys. Their task is to type the words by having their puppets open their mouths and say the letter aloud. Challenge them to ‘type’ as fast as possible. Gradually, you can move to the next level and ask students to ‘type’ phrases or even sentences.
If you teach phonetics, you can use phonemes instead of letters and use it as a transcription exercise.
3. Practising rhythm.
Ask students to have their puppets talk.
Aaaand one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four…Betty Botter bought some butter, “But,” she said, “this butter’s bitter! If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter. But a bit of better butter, that will make my batter better….one-two-three-four, keep the rhythm going.
4. Writing and staging a play.
Writing for puppets allows learners to be less self-conscious and far more creative with characters, and plots that they wouldn’t try if they were required to act it out without a puppet.
Ask your students how Romeo and Juliet’s love story could develop in modern times. Explain the project to the class – students should write the lines for the infamous balcony scene. Stress the idea that the conditions are modern and students may choose to change how the plot develops. They may also introduce new characters.
Get them to make puppets and stage the scene.
We take risks all the time in learning and using puppets helps students share with less risk as puppets “can get away with more”.
Happy New Year and happy teaching!
There are numerous websites with step-by-step instructions and videos showing the process. My absolute favourites are the videos Art Time with Mr.Mayberry giving very clear and detailed instructions on how to make a puppet’s face (How to Make a Paper Puppet (Face) and puppet’s body (How to Make a Paper Puppet 2 (Body).
(Images: © Svetlana Kandybovich, ELT-CATION)