Introducing your puppet to your class / ¿Cómo presento a mi títere?

The storyteller Bob Hartman talks about a place of 'play’ which is an attitude he finds in his head before he starts to tell a story. I know exactly what he means when I'm working with puppets, but I struggle to describe it and how to arrive there - though when I’m there I know it! More importantly, your students know it too and love it. As when you are there, they realise that you are in their world, full of magical make-believe and crazy rules. 

This is where you should aim to be when using puppets so you are in a position to clearly transmit the idea of  “This isn’t real, I know it’s a puppet and you know it’s a puppet, but let’s pretend it’s real and we’ll have a lot of fun”

This sense of play can be introduced long before the students even meet the puppet (I use the word 'meet' on purpose as what you want to do is to humanise the puppet)

This is one way you can do. Walk into the class holding a large brightly decorated envelope that attracts their attention with your name, the class name and the school's address clearly written on the front (you can even put a stamp on it) Say to the group "Look a letter for us" - without fail someone will say "Open it”. Read it silently to yourself, but look surprised and the students will ask excitedly "Read it" 

In my case, I tell them it's from Charlie, a friend from Liverpool and then I read the following out loud.

For the students who don't understand, I summarize the contents of the letter in Spanish, and then ask the class if it’s OK for Charlie to come and stay with us. The class agree, then tell the class that Charlie has also sent a picture. Ask the students if they want to see the photo and then show them a picture of a puppet monkey. This is where the place of play is important, if you are there, the students will buy into the story and will go along with the game. Depending on their age, some won't be sure and will ask you if it's real or a puppet. Never tell them it's real as this could set up a scenario for the students trying to prove that the monkey's a puppet. I then put the photo on the wall, and go onto the next part of the lesson.

Often though the picture is enough to stimulate questions about him, what he eats, how he’ll travel to Spain, do monkeys bite etc. After some days/weeks have passed (not too long as the students have lost interest) Charlie is brought in, but he’s asleep in his basket. All my puppets have somewhere to live, and they go to this safe place when it’s too noisy, when they’re tired or I want to move onto another part of the lesson. The basket has a hole cut in the back, so that he can pop up without the students seeing my hand. I ask the class very quietly  “Do you know who I’ve got here?” and then tell them it’s Charlie. I ask the class to gently call him to wake him up. We chorally call “Charlie, wake up” and in true panto style, the students repeat it louder and louder until he pops up, waves to the class, the class say “Hello Charlie” and then he goes back to sleep. For the first time that’s enough exposure of Charlie. 

For the puppets to really work then you need to have a very solid back story. Charlie has all sorts of accruements even his own passport! If you believe that the puppet is real so will your class.

¿Cómo presento a mi títere?

El cuentacuentos Bob Hartman habla sobre un ‘place of play', que podría definirse como un lugar que él imagina antes de comenzar a contar cualquiera de sus historias. Es difícil de describir pero, de alguna manera, tienes que transmitir a tu clase la idea de que “vale, sé que es un títere, pero vamos a fingir que es un ser real y a divertirnos”.

En pocas palabras, muy lentamente, de manera que se desarrolle la personalidad del títere. Normalmente lo presento diciendo a la clase que acabo de recibir una carta que dice que un amigo viene a visitarme desde UK y que va a pasarse a saludar a la clase.

Ejemplo de carta

Querido John
¿Cómo estás? Soy Charlie, tu amigo de Liverpool. Voy a Sevilla a visitarte. Me gustaría quedarme unos seis meses. Estoy deseando verte.
Abrazos.
Charlie

A continuación, explico a la clase que mi amigo habla únicamente inglés y que no tiene ni idea de español, y pregunto a los niños si quieren que les enseñe una foto suya. Coloco la foto con una chincheta en la pared de la clase, la dejo ahí y continuo con la clase normalmente. A menudo, esto es suficiente para provocar que los niños comiencen a hacer preguntas sobre qué es lo que come, cómo va a llegar a España, etc. Después de cierto tiempo (no demasiado, para evitar que los niños pierdan interés) saco a Charlie, pero aparece dormido en su cesta. Pregunto a la clase “Sabéis a quién tengo aquí?” y les digo que se trata de Charlie.

A continuación, le pido a la clase que intenten despertarlo suavemente. Él sale, saluda a la clase y se vuelve a dormir. De momento y para ser la primera vez, es tiempo suficiente de contacto con Charlie. A partir de aquí, Charlie va apareciendo puntualmente, de manera que su papel en la clase va siendo cada vez más importante. Un aspecto básico a considerar es que, para que los títeres funcionen, es necesario tener una historia sólida y coherente que las acompañe. Si tú mismo crees que tu títere es real, transmitirás esta sensación a la clase y los alumnos te preguntarán cosas sobre él (de dónde es, cuántos años tiene, dónde está su madre… y cómo es que viaja solo siendo tan pequeño).