I’ve used puppets with both my Beginning English Language Learner classes and with a mainstream ninth-grade English class (though, admittedly, the ninth-grade class was during summer school when we have the same class for five hours a day and students need a lighter activity now and then).
In both cases, students read short texts that demonstrated the literary elements present in a short story; watched videos of of international stories that re-emphasized the same outline; watched some videos of puppet shows; worked in small groups to develop a story, storyboard, and puppet show; first created “practice” paper puppets that were made in minutes; then created paper-mache ones that took days to complete; made a “backdrop” for their show; performed for the class and then went to a nearby elementary school to present it. Both times the shows were video-taped and reviewed afterwards. Sometime during this unit students also went to the computer lab to do some online puppet activities.
For Beginning ELL’s, this kind of project provides countless reading, writing, speaking (talking through a puppet is a great way to get reluctant speakers to talk), and listening opportunities. For mainstream students, it’s a fun summer school or end-of-the-year project that can be a good vehicle to cover a short story unit.
I was prompted to write this post now because of the huge festival held in Berlin this past week called the “Berlin Reunion.” Huge marionettes were brought there to perform in a series of celebrations recognizing the fall of the Berlin Wall. You can learn more about this event, and see some pretty nifty pictures, at these links:
The Berlin Reunion is a series of photos from The Boston Globe’s Big Picture.
Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Using Puppets In Class (divided into various categories):
I love HBO’s Animated Tales Of The World as examples of story-telling. Unfortunately, if you’re in the United States, it’s not easy to get a hold of them now. You can find some on YouTube. If you’re in Great Britain, you can access a bunch of them at Teachers TV, but they’re not accessible from the United States.
My favorite examples of puppetry come from the DVD titled Muppets Magic From the Ed Sullivan Show! These are great short skits.
Kevin Hodgson has his students make puppet shows, which he then places on the web.
HOW TO MAKE PUPPETS
The Puppets site also includes a variety of other helpful materials for teachers who want to use puppetry in the classroom.
Enchanted Learning has easy instructions on how to make a variety of puppets.
Open Culture just discovered a very old, and great, video of Jim Henson demonstrating how you can make a puppet out of ordinary household supplies:
Additional suggestions are welcome.