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Deanna Garcia

Professor Buckley

THE 337-01

Final Paper

10 May 2016

Puppetry in the Classroom

The ancient art of puppetry is an essential teaching strategy that teachers should employ

in their classroom lesson plans. This art form is a combination of theatre arts, visual arts,

storytelling, and music that can be used to emphasize classroom curriculum. Puppetry is

beneficial because it relies on both the listener and the teller. The role of puppeteer can be

assumed by teacher, or be delegated to the students. Delegating the role of puppeteer to the

students gives them a new line of communication, which introduces new possibilities to be

creative and think critically. Puppetry should be incorporated into the elementary school

curriculum, because it promotes self-expression, improves literacy and language, and encourages

multimodal literacy.

A puppet is a movable inanimate object or figure that is controlled by strings, rods, or by

placing ones hand inside its body. (Belfiore) This art form is believed to have originated 3,000

years ago, and has been used by many cultures to entertain, educate, and inform. (Belfiore)

Within the different cultures puppetry was utilized to narrate a tale, dramatized scriptural stories,

and incorporated into healing rituals. (Belfiore) In todays culture classroom educators utilize

puppetry as a teaching aid for students across different age groups. Puppets are perfect for

grabbing younger childrens attention because they are a safe, fun, and natural progression from
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educational cartoons they watch at home or online. (Belfiore) Elementary age students, who are

shy or intimidated by their peers, can use a puppet to shift the audiences attention away from

them and onto the puppet. (Belfiore) This makes public speaking and participation much easier.

Children in later grades benefit from puppets when developing their social skills, because they

are able to learn how to interact with different personalities without pressure. (Belfiore)

Puppetry is a form of self-expression with endless creative possibilities that children

should explore. To create a puppet students can use simple materials such as a brown paper bag,

sock, cardboard, glue, construction paper, and markers. However, students do not need materials

to create a puppet, finger puppets only require a hand and a marker, which makes puppetry

accessible to all students. Teachers can add a puppet stage using a wooden box or cardboard to

add a professional touch to the puppet performances. (McCaslin 116) While constructing a

puppet students are able to express themselves artistically when creating the aesthetic appearance

of their puppet. Students also get the opportunity to express themselves in a plethora of other


In Martinez and Notle-Yuparis article, Story Bound, Map, the writers detail the

experience of assigning a puppetry group project to elementary age students. The results of this

group project showcased that puppetry encourages self-expression in the classroom, because

students were able to express themselves visually, spatially, and orally. The puppetry project

required students to narrate and present a self-made puppet, which allowed them to incorporate

their own personal interest and curiosities to produce and perform. One group decided to

incorporate their favorite comic book character, Spiderman, into their performance. Another

group spontaneously danced with their puppets, inducing a classroom dance off. Through dance

students were able to merge self-expression and their spatial environment. The most beneficial
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part of the puppet project, was the merge of oral storytelling and self-expression. Expressing

ourselves orally is unsurpassed as a tool for learning about ourselves, about the ever-increasing

information available to us, and about the thoughts and feelings of others. (Baldwin 42)

Puppets make an excellent teaching aid in the classroom, because of their power to hold

and sustain the attention of a class. (McClasin 126) Puppetry can be use to teach any subject,

ranging from the language arts to science and math. (McClasin 126) Combining language arts

and puppetry is beneficial for students, because students are able to communicate through the

puppet. This enables teachers to open new areas of learning and tune in to a students thinking.

(McClasin 127) The incorporation of storytelling using puppets in the classroom because it

involves dialogue, character study, play structure, and growth in language competency.

(McClasin 127)

The merge of puppetry and storytelling aids students in the development of their early

reading comprehension skills, by helping them develop a sense of story. Students develop a sense

of story by incorporating the three basic parts of a story, brainstorming, and text outlines into

their narrations. Teachers can aid reading comprehension by emphasizing story elements like

point of view, plot, style, characters, setting, and story theme while storytelling with puppets.

Emphasizing story elements while allows students to make better predictions, to anticipate what

is next, to increase awareness of cause and effect, sequence events, and develop other skills that

aid comprehension. (Miller 34) In essence, combining puppetry with storytelling is a strong tool

for students to make sense of text and derive meaning from a story using a visual medium.

(Miller 38)

Puppetry endorses the practice of multimodal literacy, the concept of understanding

information through various methods of communication. Practicing multimodal literacy enables

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students to construct and express meaning in multiple forms. (Martinez 12) The puppet group

project in Story Bound, Map offered many opportunities for multimodal learning through the use

of visual, art-based, verbal, written, and spatial modes of meaning making. Students

communicated visually by presenting an artistically designed puppet, verbally conveyed a

written storyline, and expressed themselves spatially when they danced with their self-made


The forms and techniques of using puppetry in the classroom are varied and unique. The

ancient art form has been a promising medium for storytelling, improvisation, communication,

and rituals. Most recently, the art of puppetry has been modernized and digitalized in a project

called CoPuppet. The CoPuppet project created a digital translation of puppetry with emphasis of

oral storytelling, improvisation, and public engagement. (CoPuppet 326) Digitalizing puppetry

in the classroom merges the multimodal modes of meaning making with technology. Students are

exposed to the visual, art-based, verbal, written, and spatial modes of meaning making, while

using interactive digital tools and sensors when creating a virtual puppet. (CoPuppet 326) This

modern form of puppetry also familiarizes students with new technology, which appeals to an

older age group of students. Puppetry, in both the physical and virtual form, offers students an

opportunity to capitalize on the multimodal modes of meaning making.

Implementing puppetry into the curriculum is a simple, yet effective, tool in the

elementary classroom that teachers should utilize. The puppet project in Story Bound, Map was

simple, with little instruction or restrictions, but yielded significant results. Assigning students as

puppeteers exposes them to an additional form of communication, which enables them to freely

express themselves in a visual, spatial, and oral form. It also aids their reading comprehension by

conveying a sense of story, and gives teachers the opportunity to implement story elements using
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a visual medium. In conclusion, all parts of puppetry promote multimodal literacy, and exposes

students to multiple modes of meaning making.

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Works Cited

Baldwin, Jackie, and Kate Dudding. Storytelling in Schools. Print.

Department of Computer Science, University of Rome La Sapienza. CoPuppet: Collaborative

Interaction in Virtual Puppetry. Print.

Belfiore, Christie. "Puppets Talk, Children Listen." Teach Mag. Web. 5 May 2016.


Martinez, Ulyssa, and Samantha Notle-Yupari. "Story Bound, Map." Art Education 2015: 12-18.


McCaslin, Nellie. Creative Drama in the Classroom and Beyond. 8th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon,


Miller, Sara, and Lisa Pennycuff. The Power of Story: Using Storytelling to Improve Literacy

Learning. 1st ed. Vol. 1. Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education, 2008.