Dramatising English - Physical Warmers

It’s difficult to think of a suitable name for the workshops that we do, I’m not a big fan of calling them ‘theatre in the classroom’ as this conjures up images of Shakespeare, putting on plays, learning lines, public speaking, anxiety and stage fright (which after years of performance I still suffer from - especially the few minutes before walking on stage)

The online dictionary Merriam-Webstater defines ‘dramatise’ as 'to present in a way that attracts attention’ and I’d like to think that how my classes are (well, that’s what I try to do)

A way to dip your toes into the world of theatre is to use ‘drama-games’ - they are a great tool for a whole multitude of reasons. Firstly, for the teacher they are easy to implement and you can use these practical techniques to enhance creativity and learning English across the curriculum, help to encourage students to work together and most importantly play and have fun.

When working with a group or class, I always start with some type of warm up to signal to them that you’re - there are tons of ideas on the internet, but the ones here are the activities I’ve found that work especially well for students learning English as a second language.

Keep fit with Froggy

This pop-up book by Ruth Tilden makes a fantastic warm up exercise and is probably one of my all-time favourites. <iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=GB&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=batiburrillo-21&marketplace=amazon&region=GB&placement=1858811570&asins=1858811570&linkId=40f4fdb3d6032efcb7793fb2000a451b&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff">

</iframe> It costs about 2€ (£1.50) on Amazon
Age - 5+ 
Level - A1
Language covered - Body parts and simple instructions. 
Cross-curricular. Physical education 

Ask students to describe what's on the front of the book, what Froggy's wearing/doing/why he's doing exercises. Then explain to the class that they're going to do the same things as Froggy and after every exercise Froggy asks "Can you do X like Froggy" and the class chorally replies "Yes I can". Go through each page and show Froggy doing the exercise, as it's a pop-up book the students can see what they've got to do.

Similar to what happens with the puppets, I’ve found that the students are always happier and more enthusiastic about following what Froggie does, rather than doing the activities without the book. I’m really not sure why that is - the fun element? the surrealness of the situation? me doing the exercises too? Whatever it is…it works a treat!




Turning your classroom into a theatre

As always, I try to 'sell'  ideas to the class by telling them "You know what would be a lot of fun, let's change the classroom into a theatre" and then decorating the classroom. Often you only need something small - a picture drawn on the board, a different seating arrangement, having a cloth draped above the door so when the students return from break time they feel that they are entering a different classroom and not one they're normally in. 

Como convertir tu alula en un teatro

Como siempre, trato de "vender” mis ideas a la clase diciéndoles “Sabéis que sería muy divertido? Vamos a convertir el aula en un teatro!” Y, continuación, decoro el aula. A menudo sólo se necesita un pequeño toque: hacer un dibujito en la pizarra, colocar los asientos en una posición diferente. Además, pongo una cortina en la puerta de la clase de manera que, cuando los estudiantes regresan del recreo, sienten que están entrando en un aula diferente y no en su clase habitual.


Using finger puppets in EFL classroom

Not all of your puppets have to be so big, you can have lots of fun finger puppets. The pros are they are cheap and small, students can make them or have turns with playing with your finger puppets.

In my version of the GingerBread Man, the students have their own GingerBread man which they have made beforehand and as I tell the story the students act out the story with theirs. At the end of the show they often make a big poster of the decorated finger puppets. The cons are that sometimes in a large class the students can’t see them!

They lend themselves very well to songs - such as Five Little Ducks / Five Little Monkeys and Two little dickie birds (video to follow shortly)

Two Little Dickie Birds
Two little dickie birds sitting on a wall,
One named Peter, one named Paul.
Fly away, Peter! Fly away, Paul
Come back, Peter! Come back, Paul

Chris and me - my favourite finger puppets that Chris made.

Chris and me - my favourite finger puppets that Chris made.

Using photos of the puppets

Take your puppet away with you and take some photographs of him/her in different situations and show the class. Or tell the class that your puppet is still away and send them as postcards. (like in the film Amélie) For some reason that I still can't understand (and no physcologist has ever been able to explain to me) why students find the life of Manu and Charlie a lot more interesting than my own.

To exploit this curiosity of the students, take photos of the puppets in various situations or with people that you (your puppet) comes across in different places. Here's Manu in Valencia with some girls in their Falla finery. When you explain what you are doing, people are generally very happy to have their photo taken with the puppet. If you have IT skills then you can easily photoshop your puppets on holiday or in front of iconic buildings.

Then show your class the exploits of your puppet - and hopefully they'll ask you questions.

Manu the mind reading monkey in Valencia with some girls in their Falla finery.   

Manu the mind reading monkey in Valencia with some girls in their Falla finery.


Charlie swinging through the trees on Santander beach....

Charlie swinging through the trees on Santander beach....

Puppets and CLIL - Simple maths


Unfortunately in many places maths is taught in an unimaginative way (English too) and teachers explain in the same way they were taught themselves. Usually by rote learning and memorisation. There were some students in my school that could see the logic behind numbers and even talked about the ‘beauty’ of numbers. Myself I could never see it and still can’t. I think one of the reasons I dreaded maths was just the uninspired way that it was taught. We never ‘played’ with numbers and it was never brought to life. For maths to be exciting and interesting, students have to master the basics and the easy bits first. Here are some simple ideas...starting off with simple addition and subtraction. Remember, maths, like every subject should be about fun and exploration.

Helping Charlie (or your puppet) to do things that the kids can do better than Charlie always works well. You place the flashcards on the floor in front of Charlie and ask “Charlie, two plus two equals?” and Charlie points to 3. The children correct him.

Sharing - for teaching and explaining fractions.
Charlie has a bag of sweets/piece of pizza and has to share it/them out with his puppet friends - who gets what? You can use this for counting or for introducing and explaining fractions.

Counting (without puppets)

Another activity my students really love doing and I like this too as it can be do with the students at their desks. In groups of threes or in pairs - two students put their hands behind their backs, when the third student says "go" the students pull one of their hands from behind  their backs with outstretched fingers and the first person to add up total of fingers  (in English) is the winner. Other options are using two hands or multiplication. Often I demonstrate this with one student, by asking him to copy me and then doing the maths and the children have to work out the 'rules' of the game, I don't do that very often as it can be demotivating and frustrating for some students.

Maths beats

Using either rhythm sticks, a tambourine, a plastic box or anything that you can use to create a beat. Get one of your puppets to bang/tap the instrument and at the same time count out each beat and ask your class to join in. Then, ask the children to do the same again, but count the beats silently. Bang the instrument a couple of times to start off with so that they get the idea and then ask the children how many beats they counted. For some reason, this activity is always works much better if the puppets are doing it rather than the teacher. Another variation is to let members of the class to take it in turns to tap the instrument. For added difficulty, beat and count different sounds. For example, a bang of the drum, two taps of the tambourine, and one tap of the rhythm sticks. Depending on the age/level of the students you can ask the students how many times you tapped each instrument, what the total was, what the total of the tambourine was etc.




More ideas...using props - Five Little Monkeys jumping on the bed!

1. First of all print out or take this series of pictures to put on a tablet - (but with you and your puppet of course.) Then leave your puppet at home.
2. Tell the students your puppet (we'll use Charlie in this case) has had an accident.
3. Show them a picture on the tablet.
4. Tell the class that Charlie bumped his head. When the students ask how he did it, show them the next photo. Ask what room he was in and what they think happened. They'll say he was jumping on the bed.
5. Then ask them how you felt and what they thought you did and show them the photo. They'll say you called the doctor.
6. The doctor came and said to Charlie "No more monkeys jumping on the bed"
7. Then tell them you know a song about "Monkeys jumping on the bed" and teach them the song. (or 10) Little monkeys jumping on the bed.
8. When Charlie 'returns' to class it's the perfect opportunity (excuse) to sing the song again.

Lyrics http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/songs/childrens/tenmonk.htm

Song here https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=PRWH9sw_98E

Here's a version of the book on Amazon.UK

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 puppet personalities for the English language classroom

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 Charlie 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.

How to bring your puppet to life in the lesson

"But I can't act!" is what I've heard many teachers say to me at training sessions I've given. You have to keep in mind that your class will be very forgiving. It's true, you don’t need acting skills, but you will need to practise before bringing your puppet into the classroom. These are some of the most important things to keep in mind.

1. Get your puppet to make eye contact with your group, cut the fur around its eyes if you need to so that the children can see who it’s looking at.
2. When the puppet is talking, look at the puppet, not at the children. When you look at the puppet, the students will follow your lead and you 'direct' the class to look at the puppet. They won't be looking at your lips (I'm not a ventriloquist) and then when I talk to the class, the puppet looks at me. (One day I'll get round to uploading a video of this to make it clear) Why this feels so strange is we're constantly looking at the class when we speak so it feels odd to be looking at the puppet. Again, with practice this starts to feel second nature. 
3. Still with voices, you don’t have to use a special voice (though I make it a tiny bit higher/lower than how I normally talk, otherwise you'll strain your vocal cords....not great, especially in Winter. There is some good advice here
4. Simple, small actions help your puppet to look alive, a nod, or small head movement, a movement of its arm. I call these 'micro-movents' if the movements are too big then it'll be distracting to the students, if the puppet doesn't move at all, then the student looks dead.
5. Be entertaining and weave ‘magic’ (I don’t mean magic tricks) into your teaching…
6. If possible, when you’re not using the puppet, remember it's still part of the group, put in in a position so it can see what’s happening.
7. Make sure that the puppet’s not floating mid-air, rest it on your arm or in a basket.
8. Practise holding the puppet so that you can use either hand. Sometimes I hold the puppet in the left hand so I can write with my right. Practise getting the puppet to write on the board too.
9. Finally try out these techniques on your family, your partner, friends’ children so you can see what works and what doesn’t and to give you more confidence.

¡Pero yo no puedo actuar!

Es lo que he oído decir a muchos maestros en las sesiones de formación que he dado. Debes tener en cuenta que tu clase será muy tolerante. Es verdad, no necesitas habilidades teatrales, pero tendrás que practicar antes de traer tu marioneta al aula. Estas son algunas de las cosas más importantes a tener en cuenta:

1. Primero y fundamental, tienes que conseguir que tu títere haga contacto visual con el grupo (si es necesario, quita cualquier pieza que cubra el ojo a modo de párpado para que los niños sepan a quién está mirando). 
2. Cuando el títere está hablando, tienes que mirar al títere, no a los niños. Cuando miras al títere estarás ‘dirigiendo’ como un director de cine a la clase para que mire también al títere, siguiendo tu ejemplo. Además, así no se fijarán en tus labios (yo no soy ventrílocuo - hasta me cuesta decir la palabra -). Luego, cuando seas tú el que hable con la clase, la marioneta debe mirarte a ti. Un día voy a subir un vídeo de ejemplo en el que se ve claramente como funciona el juego de las miradas entre el títere y la persona que lo maneja. Al principio puede resultar extraño porque estamos acostumbrados a mirar todo el tiempo a la clase mientras hablamos pero, con la práctica, se consigue alternar la mirada entre la clase y el títere de manera natural. 
3. Con respecto a las voces, no tienes que utilizar una voz especial (aunque yo suelo hablar en un tono un poco más alto si el títere es de una chica y más bajo si es un chico). Si cambias tu voz demasiado te puedes lesionar las cuerdas vocales, especialmente en invierno. 
4. Las acciones simples y sutiles (yo los llamo 'micromovimientos'), como un gesto con la cabeza o un pequeño movimiento del brazo, ayudan a tu marioneta a cobrar vida. Si los movimientos son demasiado amplios y evidente, distraerán a los alumnos y si el títere no se mueve en absoluto parecerá muerto. De hecho, no debéis sorprenderos si los alumnos os sueltan algo como "profe, me parece que Charlie está muerto". 
5. Debes intentar ser entretenido y 'dotar de magia' a lo que enseñas. 
6. Recuerda que, aunque no lo estés usando, el títere forma parte del grupo. Si es posible, colócalo en una posición desde la que pueda observar lo que pasa en el aula. 
7. Asegúrate de que el títere no flote en el aire. Debes apoyarlo en tu brazo o colocarlo en una cesta. 
8. Finalmente, prueba y ensaya estas técnicas delante un espejo, con tu familia o tu pareja, con los hijos de los amigos, etc. para que puedas ir dándote cuenta de lo que funciona y lo que no y para ir cogiendo confianza!


Puppet manipulation

The word animate comes from the latin animatus which means  "give breath to,” and the definition I particularly like meaning of "to endow with a particular spirit."  Here are some tips on bringing your puppet to life, and of course endowing it with a spirit. The most important thing is for you to believe (or at least act as if you believe) that your puppet is real and always treat the puppet as if it’s alive.

Here are some movements you can make to show what your puppet is feeling.

• Shyness - chin down, looking away from you and/or the rest of the class.
• Interest/anticipation - head/face very close to yours.
• Tiredness - rubbing its head on your shoulder
• Fear - small head movements, but side to side, trembling movement.
• Crying / sadness - wiping eyes, head down.


Puppet making and Pinterest / Creación de títeres y Pinterest

Have started to add links here for interesting projects on puppet making on Pinterest - at the moment there are only a handful of links, but will aim to add the new links as we come across them https://www.pinterest.com/johnfharrop/bat-i-burrillo-teatro-de-titeres

He comenzado a añadir enlaces aquí relacionados con proyectos interesantes de creación de títeres que encuentro en Pinterest. Por el momento sólo hay unos cuantos enlaces, pero iré añadiendo otros nuevos a medida que los encuentre.

Puppets and student behaviour / Los títeres y la conducta de los alumnos

Teachers often ask what to do to stop their students from grabbing or pulling at the puppets. Personally, I have a zero tolerance approach to bad behaviour, it sends a very clear message to the group that any problematic behaviour will be immediately dealt with. The key thing is to be very clear what is and isn't acceptable from the very start. 

If time or the situation allows, when someone misbehaves, they have to apologise to the wronged party (even if it's a puppet) and then try to get pupils to talk through their actions for example asking them why they were trying to pull Charlie's head off or punching Manu!

It often works as it forces them to deal with and reflect on their behaviour and it often works even with very you students. I also have a clear set of graded sanctions to deal with unruly behaviour, from putting the puppet away to students sitting at the back of the class and just watching.

Nunca puedo predecir cómo van a reaccionar los alumnos cuando ven un títere. En la mayoría de las ocasiones, el encuentro es positivo y los alumnos quieren interactuar y participar, aunque puede darse el caso de que algunos se alteren y actúen de manera no deseada. A menudo, los profesores preguntan qué pueden hacer para impedir que los alumnos agarren los títeres o tiren de ellos.

Personalmente, no tolero en absoluto el mal comportamiento. De esta manera se envía un mensaje inequívoco al grupo de que cualquier conducta inapropiada recibirá una respuesta inmediata. La clave es dejar muy claro desde el principio qué es aceptable y qué no lo es. Así, en ocasiones dibujo una línea en el suelo y explico (en español) qué comportamiento es aceptable y cuál no. A continuación explico qué ocurrirá si alguien cruza esa línea. Generalmente y en particular cuando uso un títere por primera vez, lo devuelvo a la cesta directamente. Si la situación lo permite, cuando alguien se porta mal, tiene que disculparse con la "parte afectada" (incluso si es un títere) y, a continuación, intento que el alumno explique sus acciones, por ejemplo, preguntándole por qué intentaba arrancar la cabeza a Charlie o golpear a Manu!! No sé a ciencia cierta cómo de bien funciona mi enfoque pero, al menos, fuerza a los alumnos a enfrentarse con las consecuencias de lo que hacen, lo que se refleja en su conducta.



What if my ESL students say that the puppets aren't real?

All the students (apart from the really young ones) realise that the puppets aren’t real and are more than happy to play along with the ‘game’ of make believe. Occasionally a student will say, often in an outraged manner “That swan's not real ”. Truth be told, this doesn’t happen that often, probably because I treat the puppets as if they are real. I take care never say that they are real - as this can then set up a challenge to the student to prove that the puppet isn’t real.

I call them puppets and/or refer to them as ‘my friends’ or by their names and hope that the student buys into the story/activity, which they normally do. This is especially important for very young learners otherwise they'll interrupt your story wanting to know if the puppet is real or not. If the student still continues to point out that that the swan/monkey (or whatever you’re working with) isn’t real, which they sometimes do, even though they've been told various times, there are a couple of ways you can deal with this. One way is to say “I know it’s a puppet, you know it’s a puppet, but let’s pretend it’s real and we’ll have fun” or I cover the puppet’s ears and say in a conspiratorial way “I know she’s a puppet, you know she’s a puppet... but she doesn’t know she’s a puppet”. Your students need to see you playing and having fun too.

Todos los alumnos (excepto los muy pequeños) se dan cuenta de que los títeres no son reales, pero están encantados de entrar en el juego y participar en él. Sin embargo, en ocasiones, alguno de ellos dice "¡Este cisne no es de verdad!". (No suele ocurrir muy a menudo porque trato a los títeres como si fueran de verdad. Nunca digo que lo sean, pero me refiero a ellos como mis amigos o por sus nombres). Si esto pasa, dependiendo del niño, uno puede responder: "Sé que es un títere, tú también lo sabes, pero vamos a fingir que es real y a pasárnoslo bien todos juntos", o bien tapo las orejas del títere y digo, en tono conspirativo: "Ya sé que es un títere, y que tú también lo sabes, pero ella no lo sabe". Tu clase debe saber que tú estás jugando y pasándotelo bien también.


One student in this group was quick to point out that it wasn't a real swan...though quickly forgotten as he was so engaged in the story. Note the line of masking tape on the floor - this is to give me some space, as they get engrossed in the story, the students tend to move closer and closer towards you until they're practically on top of you.

One student in this group was quick to point out that it wasn't a real swan...though quickly forgotten as he was so engaged in the story. Note the line of masking tape on the floor - this is to give me some space, as they get engrossed in the story, the students tend to move closer and closer towards you until they're practically on top of you.

Storing your puppet in class /Cómo guardar tus títeres

Storing your puppet(s)

All of my puppets have a place to live - either a basket, a brightly coloured box or a bag, as bringing the puppet out is all part of the ‘magic’. I even know a teacher who keeps an octopus puppet in a specially-made cave!

I love procedures in my class, you can make up phases or chants that the children have to say every time the puppet comes out. In the case of Charlie it’s the following...

“Charlie, Charlie, red, yellow and blue, please come out and we want to see you

and at the end of the session with him we say

“Charlie, Charlie, green, yellow and grey, go to sleep and see you another day”

You can write your own to rhyme to go with your puppet's name. 

Cómo guardar tus títeres

Todos mis títeres tienen un sitio donde viven, ya sea una cesta, una caja de colores brillantes o una bolsa de tela. Conozco incluso a un profesor que tiene un títere de un pulpo que vive en una cueva hecha especialmente para él. 
Es importante tener en cuenta que sacar al títere del sitio donde vive para presentarlo a la audiencia es parte de la 'magia' del espectáculo. Algo que me gusta mucho es seguir 'procedimientos' durante mis clases como, por ejemplo, inventar frases o cancioncillas que los niños tienen que decir cada vez que el títere sale a escena. Por ejemplo, en el caso de Charlie, cuando va a aparecer los alumnos tienen que decir: 

"Charlie, Charlie, red, yellow and blue, please come out and we want to see you”.

y al final de la sesión, le tienen que decir adiós con:

“Charlie, Charlie, green, yellow and grey, go to sleep and see you another day”. Puedes escribir tus propias rimas en función del nombre de tu títere.

What's the best puppet to use in an English as a Foreign Language class / Uso de títeres en una clase de inglés como lengua extranjera

Lots of teachers ask me "What's the best puppet to use in class?". Well, there are thousands and thousands of puppets you could buy and the choice is overwhelming. What tends to happen is that you’ll see one in a shop or on the internet and you’ll say to yourself.  “That’s it, that’s the one I want”. So go ahead and buy it. Ebay has some fantastic bargains.
I use different puppets depending on what I want to achieve with my group. Though I do have my favourites. The ones that I tend to use the most are monkeys (Charlie and Manu) and probably because they reflect my personality…and my favourite food is bananas too!

Muchos profesores me preguntan a menudo ¿Cuál es el mejor títere para usar en clase? En general, hay una inmensa variedad de miles y miles de títeres que se pueden comprar y lo que suele ocurrir es que, de vez en cuando, uno se tropieza con un títere en una tienda de Internet y piensa “¡ese es! ¡Ese es justo el que estaba buscando!”. Y lo compra. En Ebay pueden encontrarse auténticas gangas.

En mi caso, uso títeres diferentes dependiendo de qué es lo que quiero conseguir con el grupo con el que estoy. Aunque, claro está, tengo mis favoritos y los que suelo utilizar en la mayoría de los casos son monos (Charlie y Manu), probablemente porque son los que mejor reflejan mejor mi personalidad. Y además, ¡mi comida favorita también son los plátanos!

Charlie doing the dishes

Charlie doing the dishes

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.

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).