Puppets in the classroom

By Cara Zelas
6 December 2017

Puppets can be an engaging and useful way to help students develop emotionally and grow their language and communication skills. However, as parents and teachers, using puppets may not be something we are familiar or comfortable with doing. Hopefully these tips will help you incorporate puppets into your teaching routine!

What does research say about puppets?
Puppets allow children to engage in imaginative play that differs from dolls and other figures. Children have the opportunity to bring puppets to life in a unique way. While using puppets, children are able to project their own emotions onto the puppet. Research suggests that children view puppets more like a peer than an adult, so their interactions with puppets match that feeling. This makes children more likely to explain their ideas and answers to a puppet than to the adult operating the puppet. Just as children are more likely to listen to or talk to a peer, that same feeling applies to puppets.
Research shows that using puppets in education has many benefits especially with language skills. Children can practice their oral speaking skills by telling a story to a puppet or explaining words or expressions. If the puppet is “confused” and doesn’t understand something, the child can explain and show the puppet what he has learned. A 2015 study investigated the learning impact of puppets in a kindergarten classroom. Their findings showed a tremendous impact of puppet use on a child’s education. The puppet helped to motivate students and involve them in the learning process, it created an emotional relationship with students, and added a playful mood to the learning environment. Additionally, the puppet enabled teachers to elaborate more on the topic they were covering, have more direct conversation with students, and maintain positive behavior in the classroom (Ronit, 2015).

What are the benefits of puppet use in the classroom?
In the early childhood/preschool classroom:

  • Puppets are a good tool to get young children’s attention.
  • Puppets help students act out everyday scenarios.
  • Puppets, especially finger puppets, allow little ones to transform into anything they want.
  • Puppets are a good visual representation to use when singing, dancing, or storytelling.

In kindergarten and primary classrooms:

  • Puppets are a good way to deliver information to students and help them retain it.
  • Student use of puppets helps them to retell information they’ve learned and remember it.
  • Teachers can use puppets to demonstrate proper pronunciation to help students develop language skills.
  • Puppets can help shy students feel comfortable speaking in front of the class because the puppet is answering, not them (Belfiore, 2016).

How can I incorporate puppets into the classroom?

  • Use puppets to help you check for understanding with you students.
    • Once you’ve covered a topic, you can have students explain it to the puppet. Or, your puppet might be confused and the students can answer his questions.Use puppets to develop literacy skills.
  • Students can read to the puppet or they can read as the puppet. Both ways help students practice their literacy skills.
    • Use puppets to develop oral speaking skills.
  • This is especially helpful for shy or timid students who may be nervous to speak during class. Have students explain a concept or give an answer through the use of a puppet.
    • Use puppets to help set behavior expectations.
  • Have puppets act out scenarios and then let students discuss and decide how they would respond.
  • Create scenarios with your puppets to teach classroom rules and procedures.
    • Use puppets to facilitate conflict/resolution between students.
  • This is a great way to help students act out their feelings and resolve their problems. It’s also a great lesson in empathy.
    • Use puppets for imaginative play.
  •  Let students create their own scenarios and stories using their puppets.

There are endless ways to use puppets in the classroom! Little ones need ways to express their emotions and have non-threatening or scary ways to participate in class. Puppets allow for this and so much more!

References
Belfiore, C. (2016). Puppets talk, children listen. Retrieved from http://www.teachmag.com/archives/5618.
Ronit, R., & Tzuriel, D. (2015). I teach better with the puppet – use of puppet as a mediating tool in kindergarten education – an evaluation. American journal of educational research, 3(3), 356-365. doi: 10.12691/education-3-3-15.