Our puppet shows just got a lot more interesting! One morning I noticed the children making what I thought were holiday lights. How wrong I was! No, these lovely lights were designed for our puppet show. I was informed that you can’t have a show without special lights.
Once our set was adorned, another group of children insisted that we needed some spot lights. Luckily we had some people powered Ikea flashlights ready to shine.
Earlier this week, three of our fourth grade friends presented us with a puppet show. They had spent three weeks writing the script, practicing their lines, and preparing for the show. We adapted the bottom of the loft with some silks and created an instant puppet stage for the performance. The story was pleasantly silly and just the right length for our wiggly Pre-K friends.
The best part about this show, however, was that it inspired our students to create their own puppets shows all week. Although many of the stories involved the store-bought puppets used by the older children, personal puppet creation has also been a big hit. We seem to be producing at least 8 new stick puppets a day.
We’ve been witnessing lots of learning throughout the process. On the first day, the children wanted to make a puppet theater in another portion of the room. Once the silks and the clips were carried over, it took some serious experimentation to find a way to create a hidden spot for the puppeteers. After the stage was set, many negotiations were needed to figure out how a shared story would go. Would she have to be the bad guy? Would he have to be the dog? Could she tell the whole story and everybody else just do what she says? Now that we are on day five of this type of play, the road is a bit smoother, but we’re also getting better at navigating the bumps.
The interviews a few weeks ago have inspired much play-acting. Our box theater has been used at a television, a house, and a puppet theater. Along the lines of the television, the children created remotes so they could have more control over their viewing. Some of the remotes included specific keys such as numbers. Others sported a bevy of colors, reflecting the children’s love of markers.
While in use, the remotes have accessed many homespun channels. Here is a list of just a few:
The Weather Channel
The Sports Channel
The Hockey Channel
The Princess Channel
The Chicken Channel
The Animal Channel
The Bunny Channel
After the creation of our television/puppet theater, one of the student’s donated a puppet theater for our use. This addition to the classroom has been very popular. We have regular requests to “come see the show”. Mrs. Pless and I are encouraging the use of the white board on the front of the theater. Children may use the dry-erase markers to write the name of their play. So far, we’ve had shows entitled, “Puppets” and “Puppet Show”. Maybe we can convince them to branch out a bit in this area?
(Note: Although it looks like Mrs. Pless and her lap-mate are not paying attention to this show, this frame was taken from a short video. They were, in fact, a well engaged audience.)
As many of you saw at Parent Night, the children are very interested in being interviewed. An activity that began spontaneously with two aliens who wanted to speak to the world, has now become a daily phenomenon. Sometimes they pretend to be fantastical creatures and other times they are simply themselves. We have passed on the interviewing position to the students, as well. It is interesting to note that some children who had no wish to be interviewed have become the most eager interviewees.
The social and language practice involved in this process is overtly apparent. The children are practicing conversational language, where one must wait for another person to stop talking before they can interject. They are discovering the power of asking questions to find out information. The children are also seeing the importance of taking turns and allowing others to join and leave the play.
Mrs. Pless and I were so inspired by this new form of play, we ran out and grabbed our favorite giant box so that the children could move their play into “the media”. We imagined that we could start an entire project based on “shows”. We would create a TV together. The children could make remotes. (Since today’s televisions really don’t have any buttons on them that children would use.) We could compare plays to television, reality to fantasy. Our imaginations went soaring off into the sunset. So far, decorating our giant television has gone quite well, as you can see in the photos below. However, as usually happens when a grown-up has a plan, the children have other ideas.
Today, the box was instantly dubbed a puppet theater and a home. While a group of children rushed to the art table to create finger puppets, another group set up house inside the box. Once the puppets were complete, the home owners were evicted and the puppets took possession. The only problem was that in order to hide from the audience, the children found they needed to lie down on the floor. This made puppet manipulation particularly difficult. Thus, a curtain was added to the theater. Now the puppets can pop out, but the puppeteers can sit safely hidden in the background.
As for the dreams of Mrs. Pless and Mrs. Forst, maybe the puppets will hold interviews?
Last month Mrs. Hanczar, the music teacher, taught the children a song and dance about Thorn Rosa. This version of Sleeping Beauty has been a topic for play since. The class was already enamored with fairies and royalty, so this new tale spun them off into happily-ever-after. Taking their lead, I’ve been collecting traditional and re-written fairy tales for us to read and compare. We began our study by listing all of the people, places, things we could think of that can be found in fairy tales.
Where We Find Them
In Magical Lands
Our first in-depth study was of “The Princess and the Pea“. Numerous readings showed us that sometimes stories can be told in different ways. For instance, in some versions there were 20 mattresses stacked on the Princess’ bed and in others there were 100. Our retelling included only 6 since that was the space limit for our paper creations.
The bed frames were crafted out of sticks we collected on the playground. As a class, the children decided how we could create a frame. Each child then took those ideas and adapted them to fit their designs. Although I, of course, imagined that the beds would look like a traditional side view of a bed, they had other plans. Many of the designs feature a large rectangle surrounding the paper. Think of this as a view from the top of the bed. Others boast complicated designs with ladders and stairs that I can only assume are inspired by bunk beds or the need to climb up all of those mattresses.
During our discussion of characters, the class decided that there should be four actors in our story: The Queen, The King, The Prince, and The Princess. We drew these with permanent marker on watercolor paper and then painted in the color details. We taped a piece of embroidery floss on the back of each and then taped it to the back of the picture so we wouldn’t lose our puppets.
Retelling stories helps us understand more about how stories are crafted. As we remember the tale and share it with others, we explore setting, characters, plot, and voice. The more we know about how stories are constructed, the easier it is to make up and write our own. This activity also helps us with comprehension as we grow older and read stories independently. We become used to the conventions of a story and can identify when we’ve misread a word that sets the tale in a spin. Retelling also gives us confidence as owners of knowledge. Each child is assured that they are the experts with this tale and can share it with others.