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Puppets in Your Classroom

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Puppets can be great to keep in your classroom. I liked to keep a bunch of puppets in my classroom to help with behavior management, feeling expression, and just breaking up parts of the day with something fun and enjoyable. I love having puppets in my classroom, and I highly recommend them to anyone running a special education classroom! 

The other day I chased a kiddo down the hall with a dinosaur puppet on my hand that threatened to eat him. It’s a game we play with my kiddos, who are not good at transitioning and tend to try to make excuses not to move on to their next class. 

The dinosaur will eat the last straggler. It gets my kids to work on making transitions better without them feeling like I’m rushing them or being mean while helping us maintain a good relationship.

And we all know how important it is to have a good relationship with our students.

And as an added bonus, if they ever need to outrun their slowest friend in a bear attack, I’ve prepared them for the concept.

None of that would be possible without my hand-dandy dinosaur puppets!

Honestly, they were one of my best purchases, and I’m so pumped to tell you all the ways I use them.

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Puppets were first brought up in my integrating arts into education class, which looking back on it, does not make sense. 

The professor wanted us to learn about the theater component and acting that kids and teachers have to do when using puppets, which makes a lot of sense. 

However, I think it should have come up before then on the social-emotional role puppets can play in a child’s life. 

Puppets offer a great option of otherness to our students. They don’t have to say the difficult thing; the puppet is saying it. There’s a degree of separation. 

I’ve even used it to get kids to tell me about things I’ve done that have upset them. 

Everyone in my classroom has a puppet for what we call “Big Feelings Time,” which we use to talk about large feelings we have around changes we can’t anticipate and conflict resolution. 

Puppets can help teach so many social-emotional skills to our students that I haven’t found a way to replace them. Granted, I’m not really looking for one.  

When we do puppets in my classroom, we all sit on the rug in a circle and review the rules for puppet time.

  1. Puppets are for feelings and talking.
  2. Puppets do not fight.
  3. Puppets must listen to other puppets when they are talking.
  4. Only one puppet may talk at a time.
  5. Do a funny voice for your puppet. 
  6. Feelings Puppets are only to be used during Feeling Times

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I do recommend giving them puppets to make and play with before doing big feeling time first because their impulse is to play with the puppets, and they don’t always realize they’re a tool, not just a toy.

During Big Feeling time, we all sit and talk about what our feelings are, and each puppet has to turn and look at the puppet talking. (something I’d never ask my students to do)

I follow the direction of the conversation and make a suggestion for what everyone can do to help acknowledge everyone else’s feelings in the class.

We make a puppet pledge on how to help our humans behave better and then remind friends about the things their puppet says they need to improve on.

My kids love it, and it’s helped make them more empathetic. 

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It’s common to think that puppets are just for pre-school age children. However, I use them with much older kids. 

As long as the kids are responding to them, go for it. 

Special education is meant to be specialized for the students who are using it. If my students thought puppets were dumb, I’d try something else. 

We call that child-centered, where we focus on what the child needs and responds to. It’s about meeting them where they’re at rather than expecting them to be somewhere closer to their typically developing peers. 

So, do I feel weird chasing my intermediate-grade level students down the hall with a dinosaur puppet? 

No, because they love it. 

Puppets make a wonderful social-emotional tool. They create that degree of separation between the child and what is being said, which can help students open up.

You can also use them to play games or read aloud to improve student motivation and participation and build good relationships with your kiddos. 

Plus, it’s just fun to do different voices and make up a character for your puppet! You have fun doing it, and your kids see that. They will have fun if you’re having fun, and won’t that make your classroom a better environment.

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