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Puppetry 101: Reading With Puppets Lesson Plan

Author: Cassie Walker

Year: 2015

Artform: Drama

Subjects: Language Arts

Grade: ALL

Duration: 45 minutes

Overview: Sick of clapping syllables? Practice syllable segmentation through puppetry! Any puppet with a moving mouth is an excellent tool for students to apply this critical phonemic awareness skill.

Standards and Objectives

SPEECH AND LANGUAGE
All Grades: Speaking clearly and audibly

PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS
Syllables
PUPPETRY, VOCAL SKILLS
All Grades: Diction, Projection
Students will practice proper puppet technique using reading books or memorized poems as dialogue.


TEACHING AND TIMELINE

INTRODUCTION

Warm-Up:

(2-3 minutes) Use “No Bananas In the Sky,” “Apples and Bananas,” or another silly song or chant to warm up voices and mouths.

DEMONSTRATION

Phonemic Awareness:

(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.


Puppet Mouth Basics:

(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.


Puppet Modeling:

(5 minutes) Use a puppet to model correct puppet technique. These rules applied to my puppets; yours may be different.

  1. Wash hands first
  2. Pull puppet on, not push
  3. Operate the mouth using the thumb of the dominant hand
  4. Operate the arm rod using the non-dominant hand
  5. Hold puppet on lap, straight up, head up
  6. Nothing goes in its mouth
  7. Don’t touch the head, or play with clothes or hair
  8. No fighting, no biting

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.

WORK PERIOD

Practice:

(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.

CLOSURE/SUMMARY

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.)


Perceive/Reflect

(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.


Pull this lesson into your studies with syllables. Every grade works with syllables in some way; younger grades need syllables to decode words, and older grades need syllables to dissect words into roots and affixes.
  • How can I best care for this instrument (the puppet)?
  • How can I make the puppet look like it is really talking using syllables?
Adapt as necessary for students with individual abilities and needs.
  • Puppet
  • Arm Rod
  • Syllable
  • Diction
  • Projection
Puppetry had its origins in ancient Asia, spread through Europe, and influenced many countries in the world leading up to the present day.

These kinds of puppets are more recent, as made popular by Jim Henson and The Muppets.
While you circle the room, monitoring behavior, check off the names of students who are successfully matching mouth movement to syllables, and take notes on students who still need help.

SUPPLIES, EQUIPMENT AND RESOURCES

  • Puppets : Any puppets with mouths for this lesson. Gather enough puppets to split the class into groups of 2 or 3 students to one puppet. (thepuppetstore.com is a great place to get puppets)
  • Younger grades: Before the lesson, help them memorize a short poem
  • Older grades: Each student should have a book at an easy independent reading level. They should not have to struggle to sound out words.