(2-3 minutes) Use “No Bananas In the Sky,” “Apples and Bananas,” or another silly song or chant to warm up voices and mouths.
(2-3 minutes) Review syllables, however you have taught them in your class. (Syllable clapping, hand under jaw, looking for vowel sounds, etc.) Stress the fact that every syllable has a vowel sound in it, and your mouth must be open for that vowel sound to come out.
(5 minutes) Create a mouth with your hand: 4 fingers together on top, and thumb on the bottom. Open and close the hand like a mouth or beak. Practice using the same song or chant from the warm-up, very slowly, opening the mouth on each syllable. This is very tricky for students of all ages! It is important to master this movement with the hand only, before adding an actual puppet. Check to make sure students’ hands are OPENING on every syllable, not closing.
(5 minutes) Use a puppet to model correct puppet technique. These rules applied to my puppets; yours may be different.
Show the students how to hold the puppet in your lap, and have them practice with invisible puppets while you use your actual puppet. Urge them to make the puppet look comfortable and realistic, not doing the splits, floating in the air, slumped over, etc. Stress that there is a lot to think about, so partners will need to help remind the puppeteers.
(25 minutes) Groups of 2-3, depending on class size and amount of puppets; one student operates the puppet, one student holds the book, and one is the audience, watching out to make sure the puppet looks comfortable and the mouth movement matches the syllables. Rotate enough times for everyone to have the same amount of turns to operate the puppet. Monitor the classroom, facilitating cooperation and on-task behavior in each group.
Students who misuse the puppets will lose puppet privileges. They will bring their reading book to a table in the back of the room, where they can either read or watch everyone else. This is a “one strike and you’re out” day: no warnings, no reminders. You misuse them, you lose them.
Put the puppets away carefully.
Note: I like to keep my puppets out of sight behind a curtain or cupboard door; it is disconcerting to the students to see their new friends lifeless. (While putting them away, I had one third grade boy ask me to “make sure they are comfortable.” Even though they know it is a toy, basically a stuffed animal, they have a hard time thinking about them that way.)
(5 minutes) Ask students to perceive (“I saw…”/”I heard…”) and reflect (“I liked…”/”I learned…”). This can be written or oral, with partners, small groups, or full class.