Hand puppet books

One use of puppets I really enjoy, especially with pre-schoolers are hand puppet books. There are lots on the market, but one of my favourites is Playtime Teddy by Emma Goldhawk and Jonathan Lambert and is part of the Snuggle Book series. The key thing about using the book is to treat the puppet as if it's real, then it's much easier for the students to buy into the story. Like all of my puppets, when I'm talking to the class, the puppet looks at me to focus their attention on me. Teddy has a great face and is really cute - and it's easy to manipulate too, it's very easy for teddy to wave, point, clap, shake hands and even tickle. The movements you make with Teddy are micro-movements to give the impression that the puppet's alive, if you move it too much then it's a distraction. Depending on class size, you can either move around with the book, or students can come to the front to interact with Teddy. There are a lot more books in this series.

Another book that's lots of fun is  ‘Calm down Boris’ by Sam Lloyd. This ties in very well with subject such free time activities/food /hobbies/exercise e.g. Once you've finished the story you can follow up by asking the students their favourite food / what they like to do in their free time. There are 5 books in the series 

Storytelling in the EFL classroom

Here are some tips and suggestions to keep in mind while telling stories in the EFL classroom - my students love stories (well, most of them anyway) 

 1. Keep it simple. Simplify the language - think about changing the linguistic content depending on the level of your students. a) less common vocabulary, eg. stool = chair b) Long sentences, eg. The princess, who had a kind heart, agreed to the marriage. = The kind princess said yes. c) Idioms, eg. Don’t get your knickers in a twist. = Don’t panic d) Tenses, eg. He had been swimming = He swam.

2. Maintain eye contact. Move your eye contact around, try not to focus on just one person.

3. Think of a hook for the start of the story. e.g. Imagine a world without leaves (for introducing photosynthesis )

4. Find a theme for your story. e.g. the bus story linked to advice.

5. Change your voice / position for different characters.

6. Use vivid colourful language that your students can understand. e.g. The eyes, bones, brains and even the hooves of the animals. Apple green. My dad’s got fingers like sausages.

7. Think when/how to use pauses.

8. Use movement/mime to help clarify meaning. e.g. to describe the enormous vats to render the dead animals.

9. Try to appeal to all the senses not just visual - use language to describe smells, sound, touch.

10. Invite interaction/invite questions? Encourage students them to offer predictions as once they’ve made a prediction they are more inclined to listen as they have a stake in the story.

11. Create the “Well I never (knew that) ”/ “You don’t say” moment. Even with mundane things.e.g. There are more chickens than people.

12. Create sound effects. e.g. tapping on the window/ scraping the box that contained the pet.

13. Repetition. Have a key part of the story...invite the students to repeat it eg (you)“And what did we say?(students) “Puppy, puppy...”

14. Tell the story in Spanglish.

15. Think about props. Bring something to the classroom to stimulate interest, e.g. wear a storytelling jacket.

16. Choose a story you like and not one you think your students will like. You’ll enjoy telling it more and you’ll transmit this to your class.

17. Think about how to end your story...

Storytelling workshop for English secondary teachers at CARLEE, Zaragoza

Storytelling workshop for English secondary teachers at CARLEE, Zaragoza



Puppet legend

Charlies Liverpool passport....

Charlies Liverpool passport....

For your puppet character to be effective in the classroom it's advisable to create a backstory for your puppet, or a 'puppet legend' (the word legend is often used in spy novels) One of the ways I do this is to use a puppet passport. The one that I use is the one below - it's from the 'The Peoples Republic of Merseyside' and it looks like a real passport and inside the details have been filled in. This helps to develop the puppet's backstory - where he's from, his birthday (you can ask the students to make him a birthday card the day before) his hobbies etc.

To fill out flesh out the backstory  - here are some things to think about (and possible questions that your students might ask you about your puppet) 

Basic Details                                                                                           Age, birthday, job - though normally when working with primary students I say that Charlie is the same age as they are.        Personality traits                                                                                 Is s/he shy, outgoing, happy, enthusiastic? Does your puppet have any catch phrases? One of my puppets Dudley loves chocolate and when he doesn't know what to say, then he answers "Chocolate" to every question.                                                                                             Family Details                                                                                       Does your puppet have a mum or dad / brothers and sisters? If s/he does, do you have any family photos.                                                 Living Details                                                                                     Where is your puppet from? (I usually choose an English speaking country to encourage the class to speak English to it) Where does your puppet live now? With you? At school? Who does the puppet live with? What type of building does it live in? A flat? A house? Hobbies / likes and dislikes                                                              Does your puppet get up early/late? What does your puppet like to eat? What does your puppet love? What are your puppet's hobbies? What does s/he watch on t.v?

Here is some links for play passports you can print off https://es.pinterest.com/explore/passport-template

Filled in with his details and his photo too.

Filled in with his details and his photo too.

Activities to do with your puppet - very young learners

In this section I'll be adding more and more activities to do with your puppet over time, I'll start here with things to do with the very young learners.

Controlling the noise in the classroom (very young learners)
Tell the class that Charlie can’t sleep/ or put Charlie to bed and ask the class to be quiet. Or if you’re reading a story, put Charlie in a place where he can see/listen and if the class get to noisy/boisterous tell the class that Charlie can’t hear the story.

Pass the puppet (very young learners)
Similar to pass the parcel. Sit the class in a circle, play some music, when the music stops the student says “Good morning Charlie” or whatever phrase/or word you want to practise.

Listen and repeat
You say a word/phrase. Then look at the puppet and the puppet says the same  word/phrase in a slightly different voice. Finally the students repeat the word/phrase. In this case, they've heard the sentence/phrase a couple of times more before attempting to repeat it.

The Liverpool Echo
You say something, a phrase/a word the puppet says something and the it’s repeated 3 or 4 times quieter and quieter (like an echo)

Using a puppet to choose a student
Instead of choosing a student yourself, get the puppet to do it. Possibly with a phrase “Red, yellow green and blue, the student that I choose is YOU” and the puppet points to the person.

Hide and seek
Send a student outside, hide a finger puppet somewhere in the class, when the the student returns play hot and cold.  ‘Cold’ - when the student is near the puppet then ‘warm’ if the student is near and he/she is very near ‘hot’. For the infants, you can use clapping instead. When far away, clap lightly and slowly and when nearer to the puppet more loudly and vigorously.

Tell the students how much your puppet enjoys music. Charlie brings out a tambourine/drum to beat and keep time with the song or uses a pencil to conduct the song - lift the pen higher to increase the volume, lower to decrease the volume.


Different types of puppet characters...

Not all of your puppets need to speak, here are some other options.

The ‘quiet’ puppet
The puppet sits and watches what goes on, it’s more of an observer. I use these puppets when doing story telling. e.g. When telling Monkey Puzzle, I tell the class that this story is Charlie’s favourite - the puppet’s job is just to turn the pages in the book. Plus Charlie's (and Manu's mouth is very small and difficult to use)

The ‘whispering puppet’
This is the one I use the most…the puppet doesn’t talk, but whispers in your ear and you tell the class what the puppet’s saying. The great thing about this is that it gives you some time to think so that you can phrase what you want to say.

The ‘chatty puppet’
In this one the puppet actually talks, technically more difficult that the whispering puppet, but there is much more scope for the activities. You can do role-play, question and answer, modelling phrases/functions. As I mentioned in the previous post remember to keep the puppet’s voice similar to your own to avoid straining your voice and use a puppet that has a mouth that's easy to use.

The ‘squeaking puppet’
I have some small 'squeakers' (you can find them on Ebay and Amazon- you can buy a bag of 10 for 2€) that I use for the monkeys (and some other puppets) and instead of whispering they squeak - the more excited/happy they are the more that they squeak. Again, similar to the whispering puppet, I'm the only person who can understand what Manu the monkey is saying.

Here is a link to Amazon - pleanty of squeakers here for your puppets!

Holding your puppets...

Sometimes teachers ask me how which fingers to use when holding a glove puppet, this depends on the size of the puppet....and of course, the size of your hands in relation to the puppet. I usually use my thumb as the arm, my index finger for the head and my middle finger for the left arm of the puppet. 

En ocasiones, los profes me preguntan qué dedos se utilizan para manejar los títeres de guante. Bien, esto depende del tamaño del títere y, por supuesto, del tamaño de la mano en relación al del títere. En general, yo empleo mi pulgar como el brazo izquierdo, el dedo índice para la cabeza y el dedo medio para el brazo derecho. Yo soy diestro, así que si eres zurdo tienes que hacer los cambios correspondientes.