Oral language is the basis for literacy. Language-oriented activities using storytelling, hand puppets and books enrich communication and literacy skills. Using puppets with books helps students in many ways:
- For the child who finds it difficult to concentrate, the puppet will give that child a focus.
- For the child who is learning English as a second language the puppet is seen as a non threatening "teacher".
- For the child who needs to "see and hear" the story, the puppet provides a visual.
- For the child who is reluctant to participate, the puppet posing a question will often elicit a response.
Puppets and books are a magical combination.
The Puppet Apron
When you are going to use a puppet with a book, you may like to wear a Puppet Apron. An inexpensive apron could be as simple as a tie-on apron with extra pockets sewn or glue gunned on. Some Do-It-Yourself stores have canvas or fabric carpenter's aprons with the store's logo – these are often giveaways as sales promotions.
Gather the students together and tell them that hiding in one of the pockets is a friend who would like to share the story with them. Then produce the puppet that is appropriate to the book. Start to talk to the puppet by asking if it is ready to listen to the story. Make the puppet gesture "Yes". Continue to talk to the puppet about listening and participating. At this point the children will be watching the puppet and ready to listen.
Matching the Puppet to the Book
The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle should be matched up with a ladybug puppet. There is one that is produced commercially and sold with the book, but it is easy to make your own. Take a red mitten and add black felt dots for the body (glue guns are wonderful accoutrements for puppet making!) . Add two "googly eyes", and some pipe cleaner antennae. You could also add six black construction paper legs. Now you are ready to have your ladybug ask the question "Hey you. Want to fight?" to all the other insects and animals. Read the book again and allow students to take turns with the puppet asking the question, and then saying "Oh, you're not big enough". Encourage the students to use grumpy voices.
Gloves and Velcro
For multiple characters in a book use a glove and attach the puppets to each finger with Velcro (use that glue gun again!). In the book The Three Little Pigs there is Mother Pig, the three little pigs and the big bad wolf. Draw, color and cut out pictures of each of the characters on light weight card, and attach Velcro to the back of each. Match up to the Velcro on the glove. Encourage students to try the glove and puppets at independent activity time. This will be excellent practice in sequencing and retelling the story.
The Simplest Hand Puppets
The simplest hand puppets of all are shadow puppets. Choose a story such as Bear Shadow by Frank Asch and then tell the students that they are going to do some shadow exploring using puppets. Ask them questions such as. What could we use as puppets if we only have ourselves? Can you think of a way we could use our bodies as a puppet? Use either a very large flashlight or projector and shine it on a plain wall. Allow the students to experiment with their hands casting shadows on the wall. Try to simulate Little Bear and his journey through the story.
This is a good activity when reading Little Bear too, and Groundhog Day stories would also be a good match.
Use the storytelling, hand puppets and books to promote drama, oral communication and language development in a non threatening and most enjoyable fashion. Many fun and games can be had with puppets.
Article compiled from author's own experience.
Image credit: Clipart ETC, https://etc.usf.edu/clipart/52500/52569/52569_pig_puppets.htm