Thursday, July 23, 2015

Puppets, you say?

My edubuddies Sam Patterson and Cheryl Morris were featured in an Edutopia article, "6 Reasons Why Puppets Will Change Your Classroom Forever."  I've known about Sam and Cheryl's puppet proclivity for years and have listened attentively as they shared their experiences with puppets  in the classroom. I recognize the sound pedagogy and rationale for using puppets with elementary and middle school students. As a high school teacher, I'll be honest, I'm a bit skeptical about making and using puppets with my high school kids.  They already think what we do is nuts, so puppets... I don't know... but I am willing to explore the notion.  If it will help my students, I am for it.

I have never made a puppet before, so under Cheryl and Andrew's tutelage at #Flipcon15, I embraced my inner child and jumped at the change to make my own.  Here's what I experienced:

  • Making puppets is good for eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, and spatial understanding as I sewed, cut, and glued the materials. I also thought about safety as I tried not to burn myself repeatedly with the hot glue gun.
  • Making puppets helps with socialization.  Akin to a quilting circle, the group of us at #Flipcon15 chatted away as we sewed and glued.  I had to wait patiently for my turn with the glue gun or the scissors.  When I didn't understand how to attach the mouth to the body, I asked for help and clarification.  
  • Making puppets gets me thinking about character and identity as I selected from the supplies and made purposeful selections concerning color and shape of the parts of the puppet. What will the gender of my puppet be? Will it be humanoid or animalistic? Will it have a happy or grumpy personality?  Is the puppet a representation of me or will it have its own identity?
As you can see from the pictures we had quite a good time making our puppets.

When I came home from Flipcon15, my daughters were immediately enthralled with my puppet named Gertie.  My youngest daughter who is in 2nd grade got Gertie talking right away and they became fast friends. Whereas my oldest daughter who is going into 4th grade is a voracious reader, my youngest daughter who is going into 2nd grade hasn't become a bookworm yet.  I wonder if there is a bit of delay because we didn't realize she needed glasses until she was going into kindergarten--while she is an excellent talker and a smart cookie, reading has been a weakness. I mentioned to my youngest daughter that she could read books with Gertie and even use the Kindle Fire to make videos with Gertie. And with that quick mention, magic started to happen....

Not only did both my daughters start making movies and reading with Gertie, they then asked if they could make their own puppets. So one trip to the local Michael's and a ridiculously hot-stay-indoors-summer day later, we were covering our kitchen island with puppet materials and trying to not run with scissors or burn ourselves with glue.

I was impressed with my oldest daughter's dexterity as she sewed her puppet's body.  My youngest surprised me with her clear design.  We chatted, took breaks, and I tried to not to burn myself with the hot glue gun.  What I learned during the first time I made my puppet was reinforced as my daughters made their puppets. The result was a black with blue spots puppy puppet made by my youngest and a blue bird puppet made by my oldest daughter.

Meet Spot and Gooney Bird

"So, puppets, you say?"  In the elementary and middle school classroom, the puppets can be a vehicle for practicing fine motor skills and, after the puppet has been created, the puppet can be a form of inspiration for storytelling or having a buddy to read with.  In the high school classroom, I'm thinking the puppets can be a vehicle for getting students involved with peer instruction and working with younger grades.What if the high school students made puppets and wrote children's books that were read to an elementary class? What if the high school students taught the elementary students to make their own puppets?  I'm also thinking I could incorporate puppet making into my freshmen classes' Create a Hero Project in the Fall or as part of our study of  the myth and George Bernard Shaw's play, Pygmalion, in the Spring. Pygmalion centers on the themes of identity and control: are we who we are because we were made or molded by someone else? The same question can be applied to the puppets. I wonder how else I can use puppets with my students....

So, puppets, I say!


  1. YAY puppets! Those ideas for integration into 9th grade sound awesome. My kids LOVED making short movies with puppets as a reflection for or analysis of the text we were reading.

  2. Thanks Cheryl! I will try out your ideas as well!