10 Tips on Using Puppets in the Pre-Primary Classroom

Playfulness and humor are essential in the pre-primary language classroom. They help create an inviting classroom environment and encourage language learning. There is no easier way to incorporate these things into your classroom than by using a puppet!

Puppets can become an integral part of your class if used correctly. It’s not enough to stick the puppet onto your hand and move it around. In today’s blog, I have 10 tips on how to effectively use a puppet in your classroom.

1 – Choosing the right puppet

I’ve had the same puppet for about 15 years. He was with me when I was teaching in Spain and now he’s here with me in the US. He’ll be by my side wherever I teach in the future. I chose him not only because he’s adorable but also because he is easy to manipulate. I can move his arms and head around without much effort.

When picking out a puppet you should to take into consideration how you will use the puppet and what you want to be able to do with it. Do you want its mouth to open? Do you want to be able to move its arms? Consider these things when choosing the perfect one!

2 – The Grand Entrance

Introducing your puppet to the class should be planned ahead of time. The puppet needs to make a memorable entrance into your room so that kids are excited to have it return day after day. I find that using a puppet in the first few days of pre-primary classes is a great way to break the ice and get the kids speaking in the target language.

Before you introduce the kids to your puppet, make sure to practice with it. You’ll want to practice how you will move it around and plan on how you will fit it into your lesson.

3 – Believe the puppet is real

When my puppet goes on my hand, I believe him to be a real monkey. If you believe that the puppet is real, your students will believe it too. This is where the magic happens!

A puppet can take the kids to the place of play. You’ve all seen the place of play before! It’s when a child is so involved in playing that their reality is in the play! When the monkey is on my hand and the kids and I are playing with it in class, we are all in the place of play together. It’s only there that a puppet can be real living thing! In order to take your kids to the place of play, you yourself must also go there when the puppet is on your hand!

4 – Will it talk and how?

I personally don’t have my puppet talk. My monkey talks to me and I tell the class what he is saying. If you do want your puppet to talk, you may want to consider which voice you use. If you want to get to the place of play, it’s best not to use your own voice. I’ve found that having the puppet talk to me and me relaying the message to the kids has worked the best!

5 – Off limits

I don’t let the kids put the puppet on their hands. The puppet only goes on my hand and I am the only one to manipulate him. Otherwise the magic is gone. I do allow the kids to give the puppet hugs or for the puppet to give kisses.  I’ve done activities where the puppet gives objects to the students or takes them away but he is always on my hand.

6 – Humor

My monkey is funny! And a little naughty! Find ways to make the puppet do funny things so that you get the kids laughing! I find there is no better way to keep kids attention than by having fun and getting them to laugh. The puppet is a great way to do that. My puppet has drawn funny things on the board, grown a mustache and thrown a fit when angry! Find ways to get the children laughing using the puppet!

7 – Take care of your puppet

When the puppet isn’t on your hand, don’t just throw him around! I treat my monkey as if he were real. I have a spot where he sits and when we are done using him, I gently put him in his place! The more you treat it like a living thing, the more the kids will believe it is!

8 – Make it part of your class routine

Routines are so important in the pre-primary classroom! Use the puppet as part of your hello and goodbye routines. I’ve known teachers that hide the puppet before class starts and have a routine to find it and say hello.  The kids love this activity!  

9 – Use the puppet to teach vocabulary and grammar

My students love when the monkey helps teach vocabulary and grammar. I use my puppet to teach emotions. He can be happy, sad, angry, tired, etc… The kids love to wake him up when he has fallen asleep! Again, we come back to the place of play. The kids believe my monkey is real and they really believe he is sleeping, so they love when we yell “wake up” and he is startled and he flies through the air!

I also have taken pictures of my monkey with vocabulary words. In the pictures of my puppet below you can see him with classroom objects. Instead of just showing a flashcard, you can use an image of the puppet with the object. Kids love seeing him in pictures!

If you are teaching grammar points, like the present continuous take pictures of your puppet doing actions! It’s a fun way to spice up a grammar point and bring the puppet into the lesson.

10 – Keep it fresh

My last bit of advice for using a puppet in class is to keep it fresh. If you use it the same way over and over again, the kids can get tired of it. I’m always trying to think of new things for the monkey to do. For example, when school started this first year, I decided that the monkey needed a mask just like the rest of us! So my mom sewed the monkey a mask and we have had so much fun with him wearing it. The kids get after him if he doesn’t have it on!

Have your heard about My Disney Stars and Friends, Pearson’s new Pre-Primary course for children aged 3 to 5?

The course brings together the magic of Disney and the rigor of Pearson educational content to give learners a fun and motivating start to language-learning. Mickey Mouse puppet included! Find out more about this delightful new course here

Another great resource for using puppets in your classroom can be found at the following website – https://www.bat-i-burrillo.com.  A puppet can add so much fun to your classroom! Try these things out and enjoy! I guarantee you will see that a puppet can enhance learning and build community in the classroom.

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