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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
- 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
- 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