Teacher Journals

This is the age of mass media. We need creative communication solutions that produce more than isolated, random flashes of connection. What follows are real pictures of play energy mainstreamed through language and communication.

The experiences described in the following teacher journals reveal a remarkable predictability as simple, artful acts of nature. The communicative play induced by a paper puppet is a form of energy—brain-based energy—that propels learning and cognition. The consistency of experience recorded here underscores our success in transforming an ancient art into a compelling communication platform for educators at all levels. The journals provide insight into the overnight transformation that play-based language brings to the classroom and to teachers largely unfamiliar with the medium. They reveal what happens when teachers risk and respond to new possibilities. The journals are a window that has opened at the outset of a new experience for these teachers. This is only just the beginning. We offer a full range of training resources that take educators much deeper into methodology and process. The journals validate a basic conviction that underlies the invention of Play Language (‘Puppetools’): that career-sustaining creativity is not the domain of a few teaching talents, but is within practical reach of the gifted many.


Carol R., Kindergarten

I have three boys who love to fight playfully and enjoy the dirt and the mud. They found it hard to believe that Mandy (a mouse) was not interested in such activity. They listened carefully as she talked to them and told about herself. She said that she needed a quiet atmosphere and I couldn't believe how intently and silently everyone worked. They would look at Mandy often to see that she was still watching them.

Margie C., Kindergarten

I introduced "Charlotte" to my kindergarten children. At first I think they thought I was a little nuts talking to this piece of paper. However, they quickly got into the mood, saying hello, petting and kissing her. Charlotte was just a friend who came to visit. She was shy, had a soft voice, and asked many questions. Some of her questions were a little nosey! Initially I felt awkward and wasn't sure I could pull it off. I still don't feel that I know Charlotte well enough or know exactly where she will take me in my class. I am thrilled with the reception the children gave her. Even after she was finished, the children wanted her to come back and visit.

Charlotte walked around the room with me and talked with the children as they completed an art project. She helped me quiet down a table of boys who were shouting at each other. Rather than have "Charlotte Time," I had her sit on the easel and watch over us for the day. The children approached her several times to say hello. Thus far, I have been the only one to use Charlotte.

Again, I used Charlotte as a questioner. She wanted to know all about each child: homes, families, favorites, ages, names. I continued the get-acquainted process. I can see how helpful she would be that first day of school for five-year-olds. I have enjoyed Charlotte and am excited about her potential and others like her. However, I'm still floundering, not knowing exactly where she will take me or how she will develop.

At the end of the day, one little boy raised his hand and wanted to know if he could ask Charlotte something. I felt as though she was coming alive, and, as I write this now....it's funny, but I feel as though I am discussing someone real! I imagine as the children start asking more about her, she will develop a background and a history.


Nancy L., First Gr.

It would be the first time using a puppet in the classroom. I was very nervous and unsure of myself. I found myself practicing many puppet voices and discovered the perfect one for my puppet, Quackles the Duck.

I introduced Quackles at story time. At first, Quackles was a little reluctant to join the groups. But with coaxing from the children, he soon began to come alive. He read a duck story.

We were a hit! The children were so excited and really listened to what Quackles had to say. The more mature boy in the class loved it. At the end of the day, all of my kids hoped Quackles would be back the next day--they couldn't wait to see him again.

I was much more relaxed today. Quackles helped me in the reading groups. He listened to each student read and made clever remarks as they finished. He gave out special Quackles rewards for good reading--a Duck Kiss. The children loved this!

The children wanted to touch and talk to him. They came over to him during work time to share their good work.. When people came into the room, the boys and girls had to tell them all about our special friend--Quackles.

Again, we were a hit! The last two days have been very enjoyable for my students--and myself. I plan to continue using puppets as an instructional tool. I'm turned on! Thanks!

Karen R., Second Gr.

During the Halloween party today, Richard expressed sadness about tomorrow. I used this opportunity to hint of a visit from someone special. Richard immediately took the bait. "Who is it?" I told him Aunt Bee would be visiting us tomorrow. "Who is she?" he asked. "She's someone special." Keri, who sits next to Richard, said, "I bet I know." She guessed that Aunt Bee was related to Kim B., another child in our class.

Aunt Bee was only a sketch when I mentioned her to Richard. However, I decided to use the puppet to enhance my discipline program. Aunt Bee was going to be a bumble bee who loves children best when they are following directions. She would also whisper to me if the directions were not clear.

At one of my circle times, I asked Richard & Keri if they remembered the name of the special guest who was coming. Neither child did. I pulled Aunt Bee from my bag. She looked around the room and whispered in my ear. The children were mesmerized. I continued to interpret Aunt Bee's whispers to the class. Finally one child asked if Aunt Bee could talk to the class. She spoke in a soft, whispery voice. The children were delighted by Aunt Bee.

One of Aunt Bee's traits is forgetfulness. Whenever a child is breaking a rule, Aunt Bee forgets the child's name. During story time, Aunt Bee whispered in my ear. She was concerned about the little boy in the blue jogging suit. He was moving all around at a imd when he should have been seated with the group. Diane kept yelling, "It's Louie, it's Louie." Aunt Bee didn't really need Diane's help, because as soon as Louie started to behave, Aunt Bee remembered his name.

Aunt Bee had a good time in the classroom. I was overjoyed with the children's response to the puppet. They actually directed questions and conversation to her.

Aunt Bee visited again today. She only spoke aloud to the three children outside the group. They joined the group after she whispered in their ears.

It seems to be most effective to have Aunt Bee whisper in my ear. I interpret what she says and answer her questions aloud. Again, today Diane tried to tell Aunt Bee the names of the children who were breaking rules. Each time Aunt Bee whispers to me, I am fascinated by the reaction of the children. They are in awe! It's a marvelous tool that gets everyone's attention. At the end of the day, Aunt Bee was across the room and I could have used her. I pretended that she was calling to me. The very mention of her name caught the attention of most of the children. I still feel a bit foolish talking aloud to Aunt Bee. The children's attitude toward Aunt Bee enables me to relax.

Christina R., Second Gr.

I am sorry that I didn't have a course like this when I started teaching. I'll never teach without a puppet again.

Karen S., Second Gr.

I was very nervous approaching the activity, fearful of failure, nervous that the kids would laugh and ignore the puppet. Using the puppet during circle time, I introduced him as Rocky the Dragon, a friend I made in my puppet class. The kids took to him immediately. They helped me feel more comfortable and at ease. They wanted to touch and talk with him. I ended the activity feeling more satisfied and more secure with myself. I want to learn more ways to use him.

Rocky joined our circle again at the children's request. He needs help to learn school routine and behavior, and is very anxious to participate. Using the puppet felt much more natural. During the lesson, I was visited by our social worker who liked the interaction so much that she stayed to watch.

My "interrogator" puppet was brought to life by a shy, thumb-sucking seven-year-old. She created her voice and talked to all the other students, who decided that the two puppets would be friends. Everyone wanted the opportunity to hold Rocky.

I'm feeling more confident each time I pick up the puppets--the sky's the limit! The children are very excited and willing to help me along the way! They are very receptive and I'm excited about going further with puppets.

Rita H., Second Gr.

Although excited about using puppets, I feel unsure of my ability to put life into a piece of paper. I think my second graders will enjoy it and accept any imperfections; however, I still fear looking foolish and being laughed at. I took Puppetools because I have worked with teachers who use puppets and I'm impressed with their success. I have never felt that I could develop the skill which they used so effectively.

I decided to use Katy the Cardinal to help me teach cursive writing. Second graders are so enthusiastic about learning to write that I find it difficult to point out some of their mistakes. By holding chalk on the bottom of Katy I can write on the board while holding her in my hand. Katy is a fluttery, nervous, and repetitive bird whose writing has many mistakes. But in her eyes it is perfect. Students can try to point out her mistakes and hopefully apply their helpful hints.

My children immediately fell in love with Katy who (I forget to mention) thinks she's a crow. Their eyes were on Katy--not me. Their conversation was directed toward this fluttering bird. The children tried so hard to make their cursive letters better than Katy's letters. They begged me not to put Katy away at the end of the lesson. (Katy was not just another "component" in learning kit--JP)

Marilyn K., Primary

I was filled with anticipation and anxiety at the thought of introducing "Question-Question, the Inquisition Serpent," to my class. The previous week, I had given them lessons in making paper bag and folded paper puppets in preparation for doing oral book reports. They greeted the whole puppet-making making venture with interest and enthusiasm. I knew that they were waiting to hear what I had learned at my Puppetools class on Saturday. I am emphatically not a ham, and doing voices of any kind is difficult for me.

I introduced Question-Question during sharing time. He and I had a talk about who he was and why he asked so many questions. Then he asked the children how they felt about puppets, snakes in particular. (Question is convinced people are prejudiced against snakes.) Then I explained to my students that using Question everyday was my homework. (They loved the idea that I had homework!) I said that I would share my Personality Sketch Form with them to use with the puppets they had made last week. A colleague in my Puppetools class also stopped by with her puppet, and the four of us (2 teachers/ 2 puppets) talked for a while.

During this four-way conversation I watched the children's faces--they were beaming! This is a fun, spontaneous activity the whole class can enjoy. It serves in a very pleasant way to bond us as a group. Also, I have been modeling willingness to risk and a playful attitude in attempting something new. This is a valuable role to model early in the year.

I still fell uncomfortable doing a voice, but I'm frank with my students about my strengths and weaknesses. Question did a survey about how they felt doing voices with their puppets. Most of them are far less self-conscious than I. My approach is that we're all in this together, and they are responding amazingly well. Tonight they are working on names, voices, and interests of their puppets.

Still apprehensive. I got Question out today so he could ask the children how their own puppet personalities were coming. To my surprise, the children whisked their puppets out of their desks, put them on their hands, and answered in their puppet voices. Puppet conversations followed, some of them hilariously funny! One of my students has already turned out to be a natural at this. Her puppet is "punk." Her lingo insults everyone in sight.

I thoroughly enjoyed the puppet exchange and felt far less self-conscious when the focus wasn't exclusively on me. Another colleague came in to introduce her puppet to my class. Again, the children got their puppets out to introduce theirs in return. The kids are loving every minute of this.

Question came out today to introduce himself and the class to Stacy P's children who had come in to show us their "M for Monkey" puppets. After the little people spoke, my students used their puppets to thank them for coming.

Today's big event was an afternoon of book reports given by puppets. The children had developed names, personalities, and voices for the paper frog puppets which now became the narrators for their oral reports. The class was divided into two groups with 2 reports going on at the same time to reduce the pressure a bit. Three children got too nervous to perform the first time, so they passed and tried again at the end of the round. They had little difficulty on the second try. The two of children who speak foreign languages asked to give their reports without puppets.

The class did a wonderful job. Their puppets wore glasses, dresses, punk hair styles--you name it. Several had wonderfully interesting voices. A few had two puppets present the report. There was a lot of interest and enthusiasm for both the puppets and the books. At day's end, I had the children write me a quick report on how they felt about using their puppets. I asked them to add any ideas about a follow-up puppet venture. This has been the most enjoyable first few weeks of school I can remember!

Emily R., Second Gr.

I had used puppets in my classroom before so I was not worried. However, I had used them mainly for "fun time." I was anxious to use them more effectively. I have a very outspoken class and I knew that Randy Raccoon needed to be introduced carefully--so he'd be accepted as someone special.

I introduced him at story time. He told them that he loved to read and that he wanted to read them one of his favorite stories. "The Raccoons." He encouraged them to read his story in their free time and that he'd come the next day to hear them read at the reading table.

The kids loved him and sat there and just watched and giggled. I heard a few say "it's just a puppet," but soon they were caught up in it too. They talked to him as if he were alive. I heard one child say he'd wished he could make one. I felt good and relieved that they accepted him so well.

I knew they were anxious for Randy to return and I thought it'd be even more fun in the smaller groups. In each reading group he asked them to name one of their favorite stories. Then he listened to them read.

The kids were on their best behavior for him and they were so careful and proud with their reading. They asked right away if he'd be here tomorrow. I liked how it motivated the kids. Puppetools was just the right boost my teaching needed this time of year.

Jeryl S., Second Gr.

I introduced "Smarty Ally," the Interro-gator puppet, to my class. I felt rather anxious about it, fearful that I would freeze and not have anything to say that would capture their interest. I placed the puppet on my left hand and proceeded to ask him about himself. He answered me in a deep, husky slow voice. He told the children that he likes to ask questions which begin with who, what, where, when, or why. I helped him write his song on the board and he taught it to the class.

Smarty Ally also told the class that he likes to read, especially the encyclopedia and dictionary. His favorite letter is "w" and his favorite color is purple. As I introduced the puppet, I realized that I was doing too much of the talking, so Smarty Ally asked each child a question about himself. As the children responded, I became more comfortable and freer with my questions. For example, Smarty addressed one of my huskier boys as "big boy." The child laughed. After the questions, I passed Smarty Ally around the class and each child played and talked with him. The children enjoyed holding him and making his mouth move and talk. I noticed at the conclusion of this experience that my left wrist ached because I had not used it like this before.

I awoke with a bad head cold and laryngitis. I had barely any speaking voice. How was Smarty Ally going to talk to the class? I whispered to the class that Smarty Ally and I both woke up without voices and that we would talk by writing notes today. Smarty Ally delivered notes by mouth to each child. They were thrilled to receive his notes. They took turns holding the puppet, reading his words aloud, and responding to him. It worked out beautifully and saved my voice.

My voice was starting to return, but it was still raspy and needed rest. Smarty Ally assisted me in my teaching throughout the day. I called on individual children to hold the puppet. I whispered questions that I wanted to ask the class, and the child made Smarty Ally ask them. I also encouraged the class to question the puppet about the lesson. The puppet provided answers by the child holding him. The class was very receptive to this technique and I again rested my voice. The children wanted to learn how to make the basic puppet so I distributed paper and instructed them in folding it. They decorated their puppets with crayon. They took their creations home for the four-day holiday and brought them back on Monday. Each child will then relate his holiday experiences with help from his puppet.

Betty K., Second Gr.

I wondered if the children would accept Rocky R. Raccoon. I had practiced all weekend on the voice, but I still felt uneasy. I also felt a little dumb. I wondered if the students would laugh and cause a disruption in the class. The last thing I needed in my reading class was disruption. I am teaching a low reading group this year. The children are very low readers and reading is low on their list of priorities. It has been very hard this year to get them truly interested in reading.

I planned to use Rocky as a reader in my class. He is a very young Racoon and his middle initial stands for "Read-a-Lot." He does have a problem with his vocabulary words because he is so small, he cannot hold a regular reading book. The students will help Rocky with his words and will show him where they are in the book as he walks around the room. At times, Rocky will join in and read and answer comprehension questions.

As I introduced our new student, the whole class looked around for a new boy or girl. When Rocky popped out of the bag--there was a ripple of laughter, but as we talked to Rocky, the whole class settled down. Being from a farming community, some of my boys wanted to shoot Rocky, which frightened him. When Rocky showed his fear, the boys reversed their decision and felt sorry for hurting his feelings. By the end of the class, the children had accepted him. They were saying good-bye to him and asking him if were going to be in any other classes. I said no because he was so young and tired easily. This made the class feel very superior and the rest of the day I had several students from other rooms ask, "Who is Rocky?"

Today I was more relaxed with Rocky and the students were looking for him when they entered the room. The children are helping Rocky with his reading, showing him where to read in the book. They look forward to him reading and answering questions. They are eager to help him with his vocabulary. The momentum is continuous now during reading and the students are into the story line more than before.

One little girl simply does not smile at all. She even looks a little mean. Throughout the year, she has not smiled at all for me. Today she was petting rocky and at the end of the class she said good-bye to Rocky and smiled a little. What a wonderful feeling I had! I hope she felt great, too.

Today I was evaluated by my principal. Being the true professional, I used Rocky in my reading class with the principal present. I knew the children would not let me keep Rocky from reading with them. I continued to use Rocky as a reader needing some help from the students with great results. I feel the students actually enjoyed reading their story and understanding it. The principal was very supportive during the class and really enjoyed my use of the puppet.

Mary M., Primary

The puppet was in the closet when the children arrived. I told them that there was someone I wanted them to meet--her name is "Frances." I opened the closet door and called Frances. "I don't want to come out. I'm scared," said Frances. "What are you afraid of Francis?" I asked. "I'm afraid of meeting all those children," she said.

I explained that they were very nice children and that she would only have to come out for a short time. "They will laugh at me because I am so different. I'm not as smart as they are," said Frances.

Eventually, Frances came out. The children responded to her warmly and tried to reassure her. And then Larry, a rather belligerent child, spoke up: "She has funny eyes!" Frances cried, "I knew they wouldn't like me. Caught off guard, Larry quickly apologized to Frances. "I'm sorry, Frances. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."

My feelings approaching the activity were of apprehension and uncertainty. However, the more I worked with the puppet, the more at ease I felt. The children's response was magical. They became completely engrossed with the puppet.
The next day the children begged me to take out Frances. They couldn't wait to see her again, and I must also admit I was eager for her to join us. That morning Frances left a badly scrawled note on the board:


The children were eager to help her. They explained the basics of neat handwriting such as alignment, spacing, using capital letters, and letter size. Frances held their attention for the entire lesson. I think it was at this point that I first realized how extraordinary is the power of this medium; a valuable tool for motivation and sustaining interest in the classroom.

The children became obsessed with the puppets. One child brought in a supply of construction paper so that every child in the class could create his own puppet. They taught their puppets the class rules and visited each other during break time.

I allowed them to bring their puppets to reading group as long as the puppets paid attention and were well behaved. We reviewed vocabulary and read a story. If the puppet did not know his place, he would have to leave the group--two puppets had to go. I feel very good about using puppets and look forward to rediscovering my own creativity.

Pat T., Third Gr.

I can't tell you how wonderful it was. My students fell in love at first sight. My room worked quietly and harmoniously for the first time. Children came and asked to have Beatrice check their work. They took her tenderly and read stories to her. Two students had a fight which scared her into hiding. They came up and told me that when Beatrice felt safe, they had something to say to her (it was they were sorry). Three boys who stayed to themselves and never mixed, smiled and responded to her with love and tenderness (they hugged her good bye that night). She was the topic of almost every journal that day. The whole day was like living a wonderful dream. I saw a side of my students I will never forget. All because of a puppet named Beatrice.

Beatrice is here to stay. The children have developed a very strong bond with her, which is spilling over to me. I am getting hugs from students who have had a very hard time showing nay emotions. The children are also aware of the change in the atmosphere of the room. They are more relaxed and in tune to each other's needs. Their journals speak of tenderness- loving gentleness, shyness. They speak of caring and how they need her.

I must admit I took this class to fulfill a one hour requirement. How very lucky I was to need that one hour.

Sandra M., Third Gr.

I felt that regardless of what happened, by girls would be very supportive. It was the boys I was concerned with as they can be troublesome. I was most apprehensive about the voice I would use. I had planned the general direction of my dialogue, but knew that I should be ready for anything.

Before introducing the puppet, I reminded them of the Puppetools workshop I had taken and that I planned to use a puppet in the classroom. They were thrilled. I used the puppet to serve as a review lesson in pronouns. After carrying on light conversation with him, he proceeded to ask them questions about pronouns, as to whether they were singular or plural, used in subjects or predicates, or were personal or possessive. We reversed this later and the students asked him some questions.

I was pleased by the students' reaction to him. I was surprised by the way the boys just absorbed the lesson. I don't think I had a daydreamer in the group. They all participated and treated him like he was human. After putting him up on my small paper rack (where I told them he likes to stay), they felt I should straighten him up a bit as he was tilted. When they lined up for lunch, they really got quiet for him. My boys talked about the puppets more than the girls. Another told me he had made a puppet at home the night before. It was amazing to see how the children responded to my puppet, seeming to hang onto each word said.

Joyce F., Third Gr.

After opening exercises, I plan to bring out Ralph (the paper raccoon I made in your workshop). I will introduce him to everyone individually. I will tell them how he got here from Canada. (Canada because my husband and I go there every year and we've had many experiences with raccoons.

I felt comfortable about using Ralph although I was a bit apprehensive about my third graders reaction to a paper raccoon. They acted as if he was real! He met all the students individually and then told them his story. They had many questions for him. We then went on to our reading and they all insisted that he go to their reading groups. I chose someone to hold him in each group. Many children handled him and he still looks brand new!

On Tuesday the children made puppets. I showed them how to make the talker and the rest they did on their own. I couldn't believe how careful they were in constructing their puppets. On Wednesday they wrote stories about their puppets and on Thursday they read them to the class (with the puppets assisting).

After three days of using puppets a la Puppetools, I found out how easy they are to work into the curriculum.

Chonita W., Third Gr.

I was extremely nervous about using my puppet in class on Tuesday. I am more worried about a few of my so called "tough guys." I don't know how they will perceive it. I wonder if the kids will accept the puppet or if the kids will consider it silly or even foolish. I am real hesitant about the voice part. If I could hide behind a puppet stage, I would probably be Ok.

I plan to introduce Ducky Diane before spelling lesson. I'll talk with her while she responds in my ear. I'll attempt to include the students in the conversation. Ducky Diane will introduce the spelling words for the week. She'll sit down to read while students begin their morning work. Later in the afternoon I plan to have diane help us with our math lesson. She'll hold the flash cards as the students give answers. If I feel comfortable and the students' response is positive, I'll use Ducky Diane in other teaching situations.

When the time came for spelling, I actually had butterflies in my stomach and dreaded having to begin. You would have thought I was auditioning for a part in a play. I began by having Diane whisper in my ear and then I would respond aloud. I did this until I felt ready and had the children's curiosity. The more Diane talked, the easier it became. The children were truly enjoying it. Some were laughing and some were wanting to talk to her.

After the lesson, I sat Diane up on my desk. She wanted to read a book since the students were starting with their reading groups. When I came back to my desk, Diane had somehow read from page 1 and turned to page 2. If only you could have seen my expression. I was shocked. I did a double take. It struck me funny but I didn't want to look surprised. The girl who sits next to my desk said, "Diane was finished with that page so I turned it for her." With the biggest grin on my face, I said, Thank you."

When the children returned from lunch, Diane was gone and had left a note: "Be back soon-DD." When she finally returned, one student asked her, "Where've you been, Diane?" Diane had been to lunch and got lost

I've used Diane every day since Tuesday. She's helped us in science and she passed out papers. Most kids said thank you and some patted her on the head. Some wrote about her in their journals. I don't think I could quit even if I wanted to. My kids won't allow me. Diane has been part of our spelling lessons all week and today I started without her. "Isn't Diane coming today?' I heard three different students say. I couldn't believe what I was hearing from one of my "tough guys." I can't believe the attitude of my students. They are different. They are excited and I'm excited. I've share with my principal, staff, and friends about your class and what I'm experiencing now.

Helen W., Third Gr.

I went to school on Tuesday with some anxiety as to how a puppet and I would get along together. I also had my doubts as to how effective a puppet would be in the classroom.

I decided to use my puppet in a math fact drill. The puppet would urge the students to study their math facts at home and school. The effect of the puppet on the students amazed me. Every student paid attention and did the drill. The students promised the puppet that they would study at home that night. On Wednesday, after the drill, I had 12 students ask me for the study sheets so that they could work on their facts at home for the timed test the next day. This had never happened before.

I have a group of 14 very active boys. I became so excited about the students' reaction to the math puppet that on Thursday I introduced a rabbit that was very shy and timid and did not like noise. I was astonished at their response. All I had to do was mention this puppet and you could hear a pin drop. One boy felt that two puppets should be introduced. Another hoped the rabbit puppet would not be frightened of the math puppet. When we left school Wednesday of my biggest and toughest boys thought that the rabbit puppet might get lonely.

Carolyn Y., Third Gr.

While I have used cloth puppets occasionally with some classes, I've never in my 28 years of teaching used one for behavior management. Before Puppetools, I wouldn't bring out a puppet unless they were quiet, but not anymore. Thank you!

Grace Y., Special Ed.

Playing games to win doesn't work especially well with my remedial students, but the kindergartners like to play war with flash cards. After again teaching to letter-sounds, I decided to try it. This time with Glitter Girty, the first talking hinge we made in class. I had previously used visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic modes, and was getting poor results. They were excited about Girty and talked about her pretty hair and bright sparkles. I simple placed a card in Girty's mouth and dropped the card in front of them. Evelyn, Sim, and Billy attended with interest, but Stacy captured most. With each successive game, the others improved. Everyday they asked for Girty. I let them use her to help one another with the numbers 0-12 and letter sounds. Stacy, especially, has been a good teacher. Evelyn doesn't give Girty the shrug of her shoulder and looks of disinterest.

Marilyn G., Special Ed, K-3

I am most excited about my class's reaction to "Bully the Bull Frog." Bully is very much like the boys in my class. They're always in trouble. They bully, talk fresh, and act mean. Although the children like Bully, they don';t like the way he acts and they let him know it.

Since Bully has no bag to live in (he sits on the table), the children often pick him u[ and speak for him. I then respond to Bull, as we call him. I often ask the children what we should do about his behavior.

My class is guilty of a great deal of abusive language. I had shared in our Puppetools class how much I would like to have Bully use the same language, but I wouldn't dare. I didn't have to. The other day one of my children approached and told me that Bully had used the "F" word and the "finger curse." I asked the child what we should do. "Put him in the thinking chair," he said. The child approached Bully, reprimanded him and then put him in the thinking chair. Under Bully's influence, I truly feel that inappropriate behavior is lessening in my class.

I must tell you that I loved this course. I have used puppets for a number of years, but never really knew in what direction to go. You have given me many ideas and so have other members of the class. I don't think I have ever been so excited about anything in teaching before (and I have taught for more than 20 years). Watching the children's reactions is most exciting and besides I really feel I am being creative--something I never felt before. Thank you so much!

Linda L. Fourth Gr.

I was so apprehensive as I drove to school today. I wasn't sure this was for me, but yet I was excited about the whole idea of using puppets. Such mixed feelings!

I waited till the end of the day to bring out Randy Raccoon. The kids all laughed and Randy's feelings were hurt. Within five minutes they were warning each other about hurting him.

One boy said, "Aw that's you talking." I told him that Randy needed my help and that was the end of that. Randy dismissed the class and by that time they were all talking to him.

Next day, as soon as the children came in, seven of them asked if Randy was coming back today. Again Randy appeared at story time. They listened so intently with no interruptions. Even my "bully" told someone to be careful of Randy's feelings. This really is exciting. I still can hardly believe that a paper puppet can be so magical. Thank you. I feel you've handed me a very special gift.

Gene S., Fourth Gr.

My greatest fear is a voice for Bandit. Will it sound unreal, fake? Will the kids think it silly? Most of all the fear of failure and the children laughing at me and ignoring the puppet. As I introduced Bandit, I explained to the class some of Bandit's fears. Immediately, the children tried to put him at ease, telling him it was ok and that they sometimes had the same fears. It was good to see the children truly concerned and caring. Their attention span was too good to be true. I remember thinking "Will it last?"

Feeling more confident I used Bandit to help introduce my dental unit. We had just begun to discuss Bandit's one fang tooth when the fire bell rang. Upon returning, Bandit asked why everyone left. Was it something he said or did? Again the children were reassuring, it was nothing Bandit had done and then eagerly explained the procedure and rules for a fire drill. It was a great spontaneous review lesson with students excited to show off their contribution to the discussion. Their response was fantastic. Was this my same class? There was more verbalization in the class than I had seen before. Most rewarding to me was the how the lesson expanded spontaneously and seeing the faces of the children eager to learn.

Connie H., 4th Gr.

When I brought Chuck the Pig out to help me talk about this neat book we're reading, three or four boys immediately began name calling (bacon, pork chop). One boy even pretended to shoot at Chuck. I then had Chuck hide his face and explain that they were hurting his feelings and he wanted to go home. I played on this: I explained to Chuck that they were only teasing, but Chuck remained firm: he wanted to leave. So Chuck left. Many of my students were upset. Some asked later in the day if Chuck was alright.

This went on for two days. I hoped they would miss Chuck and many did. On the third day, I brought in Ringtail The Raccoon instead of Chuck. I gave him a voice for personality and we began as I introduced him to the children. He told the class that he knew Chuck and how hurt he was. He asked if this was the classroom where Chuck had been. Then immediately the three or four boys began their remarks. Ringtail asked if they were always this rude to others. They were taken aback some and then Ringtail led the students in a discussion about kindness. They even talked about the Golden Rule of treating others like they want to be treated.

The rest of the class related their thoughts and my show-off boys became quiet. Later in the day one of them came to me and assured me that he was not part of this group and that he hoped Chuck would come back.


Before Puppetools I would never have used puppets. I am now always on the lookout for ways of incorporating puppets into lessons.


I am not artistic and was somewhat inhibited about using puppets. I am now able to use them comfortably for specific situations--as part of lesson plans in content areas. I am beginning to use them for characterization of behavior and problem-solving. I made an Indian girl whom I named Fair of Fad. I used her to teach about LI indians.


Prior to the Puppetools workshop, I had limited but successful experiences with puppets used to share fairy tales in controlled situations--stage & script. I know that when I first used my puppet--even after experiencing the relaxed approach of Puppetools--I was still worried about taking the risk of introducing a puppet and letting the kids responses determine direction.


When I enrolled in Puppetools I expected more theater and script ideas. Instead, I learned how puppets could be incorporated into all phases of the curriculum; not only academic. They are a natural enhancement to a classroom. Using puppets is a creative expression of yourself. The most valuable thing I learned is to GO AHEAD & TRY IT!!


In the beginning I felt I would never be able to perform in front of my class, but after practicing and making a fool of myself, the kids loved it and I felt more confident. I have allowed myself to be open and willing to take the risk in front of my colleagues as well as my students. I've learned a new, unique, creative teaching tool to enhance my teaching and to capture my students' attention as well as lighten the atmosphere even more so at a time when I needed it.

Helen M., Fifth Gr.

This year we started a program whereby we switch classes for reading and for math. These groups are arranged by ability and I have the bottom group. So I take attendance and lunch count for my homeroom class and then move to reading groups.

At 9:20 each morning, in they come! They know they are the "dummies" and they do everything they can to put down the other guy so they can look better. After we go through the litany of who forgot his book and who didn't do home work, then the lesson begins. Just as things get rolling, someone will yell out, "He's chewing gum." or "She took my pencil." "He's copying my work," etc., etc. The tattling then sets off an echo chamber of "Shut Ups." By the time they leave at 10:05 and the top math class arrives, I feel drained and frustrated, and quite like a brand new teacher. Cajoling, counseling, chiding, and keeping in at playtime. We're not working.

Then I came to Puppetools. I created Bonnie Busy Bee and decided to put her to work for me. As the class arrived at the door, I greeted each one at the door with Bonnie in hand. I introduced her to the children and using her Buzz Buzz I started tattling. Oh look at Joseph, he didn't bring his book. Richard doesn't have a pencil. Mary's shoe laces are untied. I then chided Bonnie for her rudeness and lack of good manners. She was told that she could stay and join the reading group if she behaved herself and calmed her wings. She agreed to stop buzzing if she could read with the children. The children were in awe. They did not know how to react to my new tactic but nobody tattled that day.

For the last two weeks, Bonnie has been buzzing around our room. Whenever a child "tells" on another child, Bonnie buzzes over to check on the situation. Bonnie is such a busybody that the children are starting to tell her to mind her own business. Bonnie has eased the tension in my class. The children are starting to realize how annoying it is to listen to a busy bee butting into other people's business. Bonnie buzzes around at the beginning of the period pointing out faults and the kids are starting to see what a drag that can be.

Rosalie A., Fourth-Sixth Gr.

I had very strange feelings driving to school. I was unsure of myself, and practiced different voices, and came up with one that seemed natural for my puppet, "Worried Willie."

As my fourth-grade came in, I introduced him. I presented a lesson on how to unscramble scrambled sentences. Willie repeated asked questions both of me and the students about the assignment. The four students, Worried Willie, and I analyzed what had to be done. Worried Willie expressed fear about not being able to do the assignment, and one of the students reiterated the instructions for Willie. Worried Willie was reminded to look for the "who" or "what" sentence, and then put numbers above the words, before actually writing the sentence.

Another student told Willie to count the words to make sure he used all the words when he unscrambled the sentence. Worried Willie asked the students how he should begin and end the sentence, and they told him about the capital letter for the first word of the sentence and the period at the end. One student told Worried Willie to look at the picture at the top of the page to gain some clues both to the sentences and to the correct sequence of the sentences. The students kept assuring Worried Willie that he would be able to succeed and offered him assistance when he floundered. Worried Willie kept thanking them for their help, and continually asked for their encouragement, which they readily gave.

The students' reaction was unbelievable. This paper puppet named Worried Willie had become real to them. I put him down on the round table and they picked up very tenderly. They seemed to understand his shyness and lack of confidence, and evidently empathized with him.

The students' reaction was unbelievable. This paper puppet named Worried Willie had become real to them. I put him down on the round table and they picked up very tenderly. They seemed to understand his shyness and lack of confidence, and evidently empathized with him.

When I introduced Willie to my fifth-graders, they kind of chuckled. I began my lesson by having Worried Willie ask questions about the reading of circle graphs. The boys in the group jumped right in to help Worried Willie. After Worried Willie asked what the children meant, the children understood that the percentages in a circle graph added up to 100%. Worried Willie expressed concern about the questions at the bottom of the page. The children asked if they could show Worried Willie how to find the information to answer the questions. One boy verbalized to Worried Willie his own unsureness. As a group, Worried Willie included, the children analyzed what had to be done, and then willingly proceeded to complete the task.

The children were cooperative, and attributed this to Worried Willie's ability to take the pressure off each child by expressing his own fears about the assignment, and to get the children to explain the process step by step. I am fast becoming much more comfortable with Worried Willie and the use of puppets in my room.

This morning when I got to school, I knew that I felt brave enough to use Worried Willie with my sixth Graders. I wasn't sure I would be successful, but I had the feeling it would work. As I introduced Worried Willie, he said "hello" to each one of them. They just looked at me and at Worried Willie and kind of smiled. I proceeded to introduce a difficult lesson on reading charts. Worried Willie expressed real concern to me and the students when he saw the paper we were going to use. He whispered in my ear that this paper was too hard for him, and that he was afraid.

The sixth grade boys felt like big shots, and one boy suggested that in order to help Worried Willie, we try to figure out what the information meant. The group help Worried Willie read a city government chart, and understand the flow of power. Then worried Willie asked if the children could do the first question with him, so that they could show him how to find the answers. They were so patient. It was truly amazing! The lesson, a difficult one, was very successful.

My sixth grade students readily accepted Worried Willie, and seemed quite happy to have him there, asking all the questions (through him) that they might have had to ask themselves. The sixth-graders sometimes don't ask for all the help they need because they want others in the group to feel that they know everything. Worried Willie provided a way for them to get answers without losing face. Once Worried Willie asked his questions, the boys chimed in with their own questions. This group seemed to feel more relaxed and confident than they usually do when I present a difficult lesson.

I felt absolutely amazed that this paper puppet could do more to relax my students than all the kind words I could offer. I see a very useful and important place for a puppet like Worried Willie in all classrooms. I promised my students that they could make their own puppets, and that we could set aside a weekly time for them to use puppets in my room.

Roy Sprague, Sixth Gr.

I am rather shy and backward when doing things in a different way which seem silly to me in front of a group. I have been trying to overcome the concept of fright in my mind that the children will laugh and make fun of the puppet idea. I have the idea that the puppet will not talk when he is supposed to talk. I can imagine the children's laughter bursting forth.

I plan to use the puppet everyday in opening exercise reading a short story to the children, I plan to use it in concluding a social studies lesson on the Roman Empire by having teams with Nosey asking questions since he did not get to study about the Romans.

On Tuesday I introduced Nosey to my students. I shared with the students how shy and timid he was. When I brought Nosey from behind my back, the class had a tremendous laugh. He whispered to me several times before he would speak to the children. No one would speak to Nosey aloud. He became very embarrassed because they would not speak. Nosey continued to whisper to me and three times he spoke to them without their reply. He whispered that he wanted to run and hide behind my back and he ran to hide. I put him on my desk for the day with the agreement that he would be present the next morning. During the day several students asked why I brought him to school and could they make one of their own. I explained to the students that Nosey was very sad since he did not know very much and he wanted to become a good sixth grade student like the other boys and girls.

On Wed. morning Nosey appeared with a red piece of cellophane over his face. I talked to Nosey to find out why his face was red. He whispered that he was embarrassed because no one would speak to him yesterday morning. I explained to Nosey that the children did not mean to embarrass him because they were very loving and caring for all people. I informed him that several students wanted to make brothers and sister for him. Finally, he had enough nerve to say "good morning boys and girls," and to his surprise and red face the whole class responded to his greeting. After a few minutes, Nosey asked the children what class they were supposed to be having. The class told him that they would be reviewing for a unit test in social studies. He asked the children could he ask them questions since he had never studied about Rome. After this Nosey was on a roll.

Later in language class, with Nosey on the desk, we wrote a free choice paragraph. Four wrote about Nosey. These are straight from the heart, first-drafts. I feel much better and more at ease working Nosey since the big turn around. I plan to continue using him in class. Later I hope to have students making and using their own puppets.

Anita (a child)

I think we should keep Nosey. He gets all of the children's attention. He is dum but it gives the children [a chance] to explain more of the question. He is shy but he shows himself. I think he is a great impression on the ones who are shy because Nosey comes out of his shyness and talks to the children. He might even be real helpful to the teacher, he might even get the kids to get there homework in. Even if I don't see Nosy it's good to know he's around.

Brad S. (a child)

He is a tough raccoon and Mr. S, uses him in social studies. He asked questions about Rome and its Empire. He doesn't know very much about anything yet. But he will learn as we go along. And he wants to help us with things. And he wants to meat and see other people to. He wants to learn more about us and more of how to treat boys and girls. Why he wants to come to our school is to learn how we do things here. Often he is shy because he speaks to us and we don't talk to him. Well, so long.

Nancy C., Fourth-Sixth Gr.

Toulouse-Lautrec Frog is a very intelligent person...er frog. It amazes me how my art students became so fixated on a puppet, listened to his art critiques, and heeded his advice. I found that the students would look forward to Toulouse so much that I could use him as a bribe to get information across myself. "We have four minutes to clean the room," Toulouse said. "If you can do it, I'll give Mrs. G. a compliment." Whoosh. The paints are in the cabinet, paper is off the floor and into the trash. Yes, Toulouse has saved the art room from several disasters. Toulouse then come out (only if they are sitting) and give a sort of frog white glove test. It astonishes me the absolute strength of a puppet in moments like this.

My children have made "Mr. Oak Leaf" and "Buzz Buzz the Bee." Both are introduced prior to the lesson...a sort of anticipatory to get students motivated. My art class was doing gibberish all period--even the shy ones buzzing around.

Toulouse was just designated Art Curator of the local museum, a large feat for an ordinary frog. He is now designated as the Art Historian in the room. He loves to whisper in my students' ears to extol the virtues of Degas, Seurat, and "Sal the Salamander," whose exhibit entitled, "Lithos by a Lizard," recently opened at the Met.

For me, the "real art teacher," it's a great way to get across information, while my students are doing their impressionist paintings, as well as their own critiquing their own work with an expert.

A bitter-sweet note: Toulouse was kidnapped today. He could have wandered innocently in the scraps-of-green box or was taken hostage by an arch nemesis. Who knows. I haven't received a ransom note, but that's okay. Toulouse was made of paper, so he can be cloned to save my art room from total disaster. I think (no--I know) puppets are for me and my classroom.

Long Island

Almost 10 years ago, in February, a group of North Shore teachers assembled for the first Puppetools credit course. Instructor, Mary Beth Spann wrote: "45 minutes into the course, the questions began, they mirrored typical, widely held beliefs:

  • Puppets take too much time--I never tried them because of all the work involved.
  • I'm afraid the kids will laugh at me.
  • But don't you need a puppet theater and a script to get started?
  • How can the kids believe in puppets when it's just me using a different voice?
  • Puppets are ok for the little ones, but my 3rd graders will never buy it.

"Nothing in my prior experience as a teacher or workshop leader," wrote Mary Beth, "Nothing in my prior experience as a teacher or workshop leader," wrote Mary Beth, inspired ideas with those teachers during those three days. Their comments and evaluations indicate hat little could have prepared them either. One of the evaluation questions--How is what you have learned most personally meaningful to you?--prompted these responses:

  • The fact that I've allowed myself to be open and willing to take risks in front of my colleagues as well as my students. It's been such fun!...
  • After taking this course, I know I'll want to use puppets throughout the year and for all sorts of purposes.
  • The most valuable thing I learned from this course is go ahead and TRY IT!

"The most touching account," wrote Mary Beth, "came from a high school English teacher who shared a puppet with her most difficult of seventeen-year-olds. Commonly known to other students as "dirt bags," these are the problem kids with unhappy homes and bleak futures. When I was a kid we called them hoods or delinquents. They're not easy to reach, much less to teach. Others are amazed when a teacher can keep them in their seats for a full period. Hardly anyone expects them to learn much of anything."

"But a tiny rabbit puppet made a difference here. According to the teacher, Sandra Lee, her puppet, "Star," brought 'a purity and innocence to this group of tough, tough kids.' When Star told them to work, they did. When she told them that their profanity hurt her ears, they apologized.

"And the next day, when the toughest, most crusty eighteen-year-old came to school with a miniature teddy bear tucked in the pocket of his denim jacket, because he wanted 'to show it to star,' Sandra knew that Star had touched some tender spots that had long been under lock and key."

Sandra L., High School

I thought I would learn to make puppets. I learned so much more. I've discovered how much fun it is to take outrageous risks in class. Older kids--seniors and rough dirt bag and honors level kids--all respond to puppets. Grown ups are hungry to play and be playful. How easy it is to incorporate puppets into curriculum-- how even a finger puppet changes the whole tone of a lesson. How creative the children become. The possibilities for using puppets in the classroom are endless.

Rhonda M., High School/ Home Economics

Driving to school, I thought to myself, I just don't think this is going to work with high school students. I had my puppet and some old puppet friends. I told my students that we had a guest speaker today on the art of puppetry. when I brought out my pig puppet, "Hog," a pink pig with a cowboy hat. At first I got a few whispers but soon everybody was interested in what Hog had to say about personal hygiene. Many of students want to use Hog in their group activities with preschoolers. He has become very interesting to my students and will be used a lot in our nursery school project.

As I drove to school on the Day 2, I was not quite as doubtful as the day before. Hog introduced his friends to the class. To my surprise many of the students had brought old friends with them that day, puppets of their own, and one student had made a sock puppet the night before. Hog showed them how to make the basic puppet hinge and hints for making easy puppets. They will use these puppets in their preschool program. Puppets have brought a third dimension to our class and our preschool.

Jeffrey L. Peyton, Founder
The Play Tectonics Movement

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