This week’s featured lesson from ArtsEdge, the Kennedy Center’s educational media site, explores how using puppets in the classroom can assist students in building their self confidence and ability to communicate. This is an extra exciting feature because this fall Mississippi Teaching Artist Chuck Galey will be presenting workshop on Saturday, August 20th that will demonstrate how to create connections between books by using puppets. Check out some of their other Fact Sheets on their How To section.
Puppetry is a useful tool for teaching speaking and communicating skills because students can use their puppets as their voices. Using puppets can help melt away trepidation for reluctant speakers. I’ve used puppetry in many circumstances, from depicting stories from the language arts reading curriculum to original puppet shows on themes like bullying or immigration. Unique to puppetry (and theater) is that students can become someone or something other than themselves. A shy student can try on the role of the mighty lion, or the outgoing student might play the meek old woman.
Students’ filters with regard to their communication skills are often dropped when they have a puppet in front of them. Since it is no big deal for the puppet to have an accent or hesitate with a word, students often feel much more comfortable and are willing to practice verbal communication via the puppets. It is an engaging activity that can help develop students’ language skills, confidence, and self-esteem. It also teaches students valuable lessons about the arts—including the roles of discipline and practice—and specific theater skills, such as creating character, projecting one’s voice, creating setting, interacting with other actors (puppets), and performance skills.
Both poetry and puppetry can provide children with creative tools to inspire and apply learning in a meaningful manner. Using these artistic tools builds students’ confidence as they gain new vocabulary. You don’t need to feel confident yourself as a poet or puppeteer to open these techniques to your students. However, once you begin to work with your students, and write your own poems or perform with your students in a puppet show, you just might surprise yourself with your creative abilities.