The best thing about using puppets in the classroom is the reaction from the students when you bring one out. Puppets quickly focus attention and get the delight of the kids. Beyond that they are wonderful teaching tools which we use all the time for social and emotional learning. When a puppet comes into a classroom the whole dynamics of teacher and students change. Students interact and respond to the puppet directly and the teacher can take a back seat.
Here are some suggestions on how facilitators can make use of puppets in the classroom.
It is interesting the way children respond to puppets. They understand that they are not real but at the same time attribute to them genuine feelings and expect them to conform to social norms. This means that puppets are a great way to model both appropriate and inappropriate behaviour in a way an adult or another child couldn’t. Children will feel happy about making suggestions and corrections to a puppets behaviour while they would not feel comfortable about doing this with a real person.
Children often have a lot of difficulty expressing their feelings – especially negative ones – to adults. When they get to interact with a puppet this changes and they feel very comfortable and will often open up about personal and friendship problems as well as other feelings. If the puppet has the same problems they do, or feel the same way they do, then they feel an affinity to the puppet.
Puppets are also a great way to actively explore situations with children and create scenarios, such as where one puppet needs help or is upset. The children can respond by suggesting what the others puppets should do to respond. It gives them lots of ideas for how to respond to their friends and how they can act outside of the classroom.
Puppets from Pathways
Puppets are a great teaching tool and are a wonderful and fun way to explore social and emotional learning with younger children. We use the cuddly, huggable Folkmanis puppets. They are available from the trust; the Brave Brown is $30 and Maltese is $35.