Elly's Explorations

 
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Elly



Joined: 04 Mar 2005
Posts: 2
Location: Puerto Rico

PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2005 7:09 am
PostPost subject: Elly's Explorations
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Elly Mallen, Teacher, Colegio San Antonio, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico

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When I was a child I grew up with Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. What always fascinated me were the puppets. They always caught my attention, and helped me to learn and understand the lesson or message they wanted to teach. I believe that puppets are a great way to carry out any message. I have been teaching now for 15 years and always worked with preschoolers. I teach English as a second language to children in Puerto Rico. It is not easy, especially if English is not spoken at home, but this challenge always energized me.

When I started out, my new position involved story telling for Maternals (3s), Preschoolers, and English for the kindergarten and first grade, I wanted to try new techniques to teach my children. It was very hard because they did not understand me, and I am not allowed to speak Spanish in class. I tried many ways to design my lesson plans in the classroom with the children, and it was always very difficult. I would at times cry because I felt my children did not understand me and the group control was awful. I have been to so many seminars and have read countless books on group control, but they never worked for me. What could I do, they just did not understand what I was saying to them in English.

I started to do some research on how I could work better with my children. My co-workers always said I am very artistic and creative and that I would come up with some crazy idea. I watched Dora the Explorer, Blues Clues and of course Barney and many other programs to get new ideas and new techniques. That’s when I started to use puppets. The school provided me with many puppets plus the ones I made. I started to get a better response from my children using the puppets. But there were problems. Being a resource teacher, space is very limited, and all the things that one has to carry from one classroom to the next is not easy. The worst part was my desk. I just had too many bulky puppets on my desk. My supervisor even complained. Once again I started to search on the internet and one day I found Puppetools. All the wonderful puppets really caught my attention.

At that time, in Maternal and Preschool we were learning insects. I saw the Puppetools spider and an opportunity to use it in my class. My son (who is 15 years old) loved the spider, played with it, and even took it to class, so I made another one. With the spider I was able to use it with the song “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and with the stories were reading about bugs.

My three-year-olds loved it! It caught and held their attention and they began to understand me as I read the stories and sing the songs. The group control was incredible. I never expected three-year-olds to sit still and pay so much attention.

The homeroom teacher couldn’t believe it, and she herself also enjoyed my class with the children. Now I select new puppets for every theme, and my children are learning English and really enjoy the class.

After working with my Maternal group, I moved on to my preschoolers. I got into the theme of the caterpillar and how it transforms into a butterfly. This time I used the Puppetools pattern of the butterfly. As I read to my children, I noticed that I had their attention and told them that at the end of the story they would have a surprise: they could each make their own butterfly with wings that move. One of the children quietly had taken my spider. As he was doing his butterfly, he would imitate me and use the spider as his friend and the spider and him would choose the colors to decorate his butterfly. What most shocked me were the students that have ADD and ADHD. As you know this is a condition that is not easy to work with, especially with so many children in a classroom filled with 4 year olds. They were very attentive and were the first to sit in the assembly to see my new guest, the butterfly.

My kindergarten is different because it is an English class. From the beginning, this class was very difficult. I had 5 students that did not like my class. With the puppets I managed to connect, but I still had problems with one student who just refused to take my class

When I would come to class with puppet friends, she liked them but I could not use the puppets everyday--they were too bulky and too many to carry so I stopped for a while. Again, there were problems with group control because without the puppets their interest was not as high. Then I made the “talking book” to introduce my stories in class. Again, this sparked the children’s interest and I was on a roll with them. I used the puppet to start reading and writing in the classroom The one little girl who had disrupted my class started to pay attention and participate with the group. She even started to use words in English, even in front of the group.

I am right now recuperating from surgery so I have been out of class. A teacher is substituting for me. We are on the theme of the ocean. The substitute teacher used the fish puppet to read her stories. With this the children became very creative and each child was able to create his or her own fish story. When she sent me the work, I was surprised at how freely these children were able to use their imagination and create their own stories in English!
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papertalker
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Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 206
Location: Virginia, USA

PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2005 7:23 am
PostPost subject: Just Do It.
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Elly

You have been using play language across a spectrum of ages and settings. I know that you are teaching 3rd graders now, and look forward to your accounts of working with this age-level. You have a great 'Just Do It' quality of mind. Thanks for this terrific narrative.
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ktan



Joined: 27 Nov 2005
Posts: 23
Location: India

PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2005 12:46 pm
PostPost subject: Some observations
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During the six day puppetry workshop I am conducting with a group of 5 children, I have observed that they interact with each other using their puppets. I consider this a positve feedback as the youngest in the group is 4 years old and the oldest is 10 (and I sind it difficult to keep all of them occupied all of the time using the same level of activities!).

The system of education in India has made children depend on rote learning and spoon feeding hence they lose interest when it comes to taking part in puppet play activities. They (primarily their parents, I should say) consider it a waste of time. I hope to someday break into this system of thinking and get children to love their puppets and benefit from them.
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papertalker
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2005 3:19 pm
PostPost subject: The Response of Children
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It's noteworthy that you are getting a response from kids of all ages. Could you please tell us more about the purpose of the workshop, the topic (if there is a specific topic), and the context for the interplay?

Are you saying the the use of puppets in this activity provides a universal common ground that's surprising?

Your observation seems to be that if children are not playfully engaged, their instinct for play will weaken. That may be the case. But you are also saying that kids of all ages are responsive. Perhaps you could elaborate here. What are some of the interactions like?

Children who are habituated to play-deprivation could, as you say, become disinterested in play whether initiated by peers or teachers. But it has been more my experience to learn from teachers that getting kids to respond to puppets on their hands is pretty easy; like throwing a switch--even sophisticated middle-school students.

Yes, I agree that parents wanting their children's education to be serious and demanding reinforce the old-school doctrines and invite 'educational child abuse" They fail to understand the wisdom of Heraclitus who said, "Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play."
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ktan



Joined: 27 Nov 2005
Posts: 23
Location: India

PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 1:37 pm
PostPost subject: Workshop response
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Thank you for your reply, Jeff. Yes, I've had a mixed experience working with this group. There are two 4 year olds, two 6 year olds and one 8 year old. I have not been able to engage all of them with activities except for making puppets.

I have had activities involving story weaving, story reading, making puppets, handling puppets, and finally also created a story with their own puppets. I have not concentrated too much on the elements of characterization as that seems too much for the 4 year olds.

I have now got them excited about doing a puppetshow based on a popular story. With just one more session of the workshop left, I do hope they have gained from it.

Aparna
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papertalker
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 4:22 pm
PostPost subject: Follow-up
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Aparna.

Have you explored any further? How did the last session go? Please keep in touch. Very Happy
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ktan



Joined: 27 Nov 2005
Posts: 23
Location: India

PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 1:12 pm
PostPost subject: Follow up and a new query
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Hi Jeff,
My six sessions on puppetry and storytelling are over and thinking back, I feel it could have gone better. The children to chose to perform the Giant Turnip as their final puppet show. It was a very basic show and I gave suggestions as they prepared for the performance. The children seemed to like doing it. I hope to improvise next time through.

Another topic I would like some leads and suggestions from you is one person puppetry. I find it difficult to handle a puppet show single handedly. If I decide to simply have a finger play/action song session with the puppet in a preschool setting is it more effective if the children see me handling the puppet or simply see the puppet while I manipulate from behind a screen/stage?

Thanks

Aparna
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papertalker
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 10:15 pm
PostPost subject: feedback and impressions
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Aparna, hello.

I'm so glad you wrote back. I wasn't there to see what you did, but permit me to intuit. I also don't know how far you went into the site's resources.

Have yo tried the Puppetools Express? I am asking because there are guidlines and principles of use that steer users away from 'theater, formal storytelling (long periods of reading-listening), and trying too much.

In fact, instead of storytelling, next time try bits and snatches of problem-solving, instant communication that takes kids by surprise and actually participates whereby the puppet helps in a given situation.

The Teacher Journals, accessible from the home page are loaded with ideas and 'communication' that is not really theater but involves itself in the course of issues, problems, lessons, moments.

This will allow you to keep largely to one or two puppets, and invite comments from children where you are free to respond playfully. I think your model of use kept you tied up, limited your range, forced you to get through the story.

Look upon the puppet as both prop and idea that you can 'get inside of' and I think this will give you many more options.

There are useful readings in the LEARN section of the Workshop on using puppets to communicate. If you have trouble accessing these, please let me know.

Did you view the video clip of 'the stomach?' Simplicity is golden.

You are working with quite a wide age range. Each child will find his own sense of what to do with the puppets over time. But your use of the puppets, unexpected, playful, spontaneous, will keep the anticipating and a little more motivated to focus when you choose to make the appear and disappear--and this is a good model because it helps to focus them and to play imaginatively.

Many people have fixed ideas about using puppets, and I encourage you to try to stretch your use of them by playing with the children through them (again the journals explore this method very well.

If these comments do not help, please let me know and I will try to improve my aim.

In any case, what you did was a good start. You took a risk, and no you are hungry for a more mangeable and enjoyable experience. As I have always said, this is a medium that should work for you, not you work for it.
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ktan



Joined: 27 Nov 2005
Posts: 23
Location: India

PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2006 2:43 pm
PostPost subject: Reply
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Thank you for your reply, Jeff. I have not been able to access all the clips as the Internet speed here is a little slow. And I will go through all the articles you have mentioned and tell you about my experiences while putting the ideas to practice.
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papertalker
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Location: Virginia, USA

PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2006 12:31 pm
PostPost subject: Getting back
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Just wrote to you this morning and perhaps you have my message by now. I guess I did communicate with you, and you did reply as per the above posts.

Just want you to know that I think you have been a real asset to the forum, and hope that you will keep on sharing. Let me know if there's anything I can assist you with.
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