Props are quite possibly one of the most important resources for a teacher. Discover why in my latest post.
Whilst I was writing the different educational curriculums for foreign language acquisition and in the writing of the Baguette Bear® books which are now award winning, I played heavily with props. (still do!)
Yes, you read right, ‘played’ was the keyword and it is one of the most valuable doorways you can possibly use to help improve a child’s learning.
As an adult and a teacher, you must train yourself to really see the world through the eyes of a child. If you cannot do this, you will always be ‘missing the link’ that helps you to build the teacher / student relationship you need to be able to really teach to your fullest ability.
This is one of the reasons, I believe that Baguette the Bilingual bear® is so successful and loved by children, parents and schools. His small, child like size and manner are replicated through a puppet. The Baguette Bear® puppet.
The puppet, the books, the music, songs and the stories are all built upon my many years of research working with children as an educator, teacher, as a former child protection professional, as an author and illustrator, as a mother and as a once child myself and frequent child visitor in my own creative world. To teach children successfully, you must always be able to revisit the child’s world as a child. It’s a total must!
In fact, I will go as far to say that most definitely in the UK, one of the biggest failings sadly of the new changes in our public school structures to the now academies, is the associated swift and often preferred change that many teachers now all teach wearing business suits. They are equally, all too often in meetings discussing budgets and expect a child to be seen and not heard. The world of successful education was not built on these values and I feel will not survive on them either. Remembering that learning is a life, long experience. Time will tell.
But one tool of teaching that has always stood the test of time is the puppet, if used well. By this I mean to use a puppet well, you simply have to live within it. Embody, in a sense the attributes of that puppet and the world to which it pertains.
This builds a rich context which creates the environment and expereince that you can then use as your classroom. Remembering at all times, that a key factor of that classroom is the student themselves. The student is a key mechanic within this learning experience. How they respond and react to the puppet and the actions of the puppet are your cue to deliver the next response.
This is why I love using puppets so much, we have taken a soft puppet which both the student and teacher looks at initially and then with careful introduction by the teacher transforms the learning experience, second by second. Making the learning experience totally unique. This is priceless. Now if you teach with methods that do not allow a child, a student to be heard, you are not teaching. You are dictating.
Think back to the times you have used any puppet, several times. How did you use it? What was the student’s response? I bet each time, every use was totally unique. And if you do after class evaluations, if you refer back to your notes, you will see that your observations for each use will be different and quite possibly would have thrown up new ideas of use for yourself as a teacher which hopefully you would have used to create even more engage lesson plans or lesson themes.
Now, think of the student, the child, how do you think they reacted? Did their response cause you to create a reaction that was different each time? Most probably yes. Every action causes a reaction. A science within a science – quite unique.
So, in a nutshell, a puppet is a vehicle for the complete revolution of learning, each time you use it. How wonderful is that.
I want to highlight here the duality of learning also for both the student and the teacher. Every time I have taught a class with Baguette Bear®, I always thought of many more ideas of use and extension from any one given activity thus producing more and more unique learning opportunities. These thoughts if realised are golden nuggets of knowledge for both the teacher and the student.
So, let’s look at some basic ways in which you can use any puppet in your lessons.
Firstly, props are a tool of the profession when you are teaching. You are a professional they are your tool not a toy. That will help you to get the right mindset.
Not only do props make your lessons more interesting and interactive but they will help you with the following elements of teaching.
- Props can help you you encourage new students or less confident students to interact more with you in the class. This will improve confidence whilst building a positive relationship between yourself as the teacher and the student.
- Props will help you create a more ‘child friendly’ enviroment. This will help the child relax and enjoy the lesson more. If these factors are achieved they are more open to learning. So your lesson will be easier and more enjoyable to teach.
- Props can help your student build their language acquisition more easily by remembering the pupett used for the words ‘ elephant, grey, soft, ears and tusks’ for example.
- Props, can help you illustrate emotions. You can use a prop to show happiness, sadness, feeling scared or excited etc.
- Props can illustrate action verbs such as: jump, dance, swim and run. For children that are less confident this is a great way to draw them in. Make the puppet jump first, then ask the student to jump with you.
- Props can be used to control noise in the classroom. Use a rabbit or other similar puppet with long / big ears. Cover them, then half hide the puppet if the class is noisy and frown. reveal the full puppet, smile and jump when the class is quiet.
- Props, can be used as reward systems to encourage and reward good behaviour or improved interaction from the student. Equally disobedient behaviour can also be managed by removing a students favourite puppet from view.
- Props, can be used to illustrate colours, textures and sounds. Remember that children learn through play. You must fully engage and involve yourself entirely with play in the classroom. Using puppets make this easy, fun and enjoyable.
- Puppets can help children with pronunciation by illustration and also by interactive practice. Such as by using the ‘teach and repeat’ technique.
- Puppets can help with social skills. Turn taking is often a lesson difficult for young learners to acquire. Puppets can illustrate the example of turn taking and can then also be the manager of the turn taking, removing the teacher (indirectly in the eyes of the child) which can help improve a positive relationship between the teacher and the student.
- Puppets are an important part of a child’s ‘growth mindset’. It empowers them to become self analytical as the start to make choices and make decisions upon the many factors of communication and language. This deduction process is absolutely key for a child to ‘make sense of their learning’ by making sense of ‘their world.’
- Props tell a story, let your student tell theirs. let them find their voice and use it.
One of the greatest gifts of teaching is that as a teacher you are in a unique position of helping to put the most wonderful knowledge into the minds and hearts of your students each time you teach. How wonderful is that?