Using puppets in the classroom

@MrSmithKS1 over on twitter asked if anyone was using puppets in a KS2 classroom. My answer was a resounding yes! I was given a ventriloquist puppet as a gift a few years ago. After sitting in the spare room for months, I took him into school on a fancy dress day and Tango the chimp was born. I cover PPA throughout school so I use him with all year groups, but even when I had my own class in Year 5, Tango was a big hit. In KS1 he would help us read and count. In KS2 he was mostly for comic relief and could liven up even the dullest of lessons. Here are my suggestions and practical tips for using a puppet in the classroom (in no particular order):

  1. In Maths, puppets are great for teaching the basics like counting on, counting back and learning times tables facts. The puppet can join in with the class, or he can listen intently whilst they demonstrate their learning.
  2. When I read the class novel, Tango always sits on my knee and listens. If I come across a word that I think needs explaining, I ask Tango if he knows what it means. He inevitably says no, and then it’s up to someone in the class to explain. You’d be surprised how often children imitate this little “Rod & Emu” act in the reading corner.
  3. Tango is a great listener. He doesn’t judge, doesn’t interrupt, doesn’t correct mistakes and always pays attention. He’s great for children to read to one on one, or just to talk to if they’re feeling a little down. Even if children don’t speak out loud, they still animate him and make him answer yes/no, which makes me believe they must be thinking through a situation internally.
  4. As good as he is at listening, Tango isn’t the ripest banana in the bunch. Some concepts need to be explained to him over and over again, in clear, child friendly language. Luckily for me there’s never any shortage of children willing to help him understand. I put the children in groups of 3. One (the translator) has Tango whilst the other 2 explain a concept to him. Almost always, the translator will say Tango doesn’t understand something. Sometimes it’s because they themselves don’t understand, and other times they do it intentionally for the interaction, but either way it gets the children thinking and talking about what they are learning.

I hope I’ve convinced you that a puppet is a worthwhile addition to any classroom. Don’t worry if you haven’t quite mastered your ventriloquist act yet. In KS1 I put on a silly voice for Tango. In KS2, he’s mostly silent, yet no less effective!

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