There is something magical about the relationship of kids and puppets. Bring out the puppets and every kid in a class will be on task. Just watch a child with a puppet on their hand sometime. You will see that they have entered a new world of imagination and wonder.
You have to have ground rules (puppets don't fight and puppets don't bite) otherwise you will lose control. And, alas, there was always one kid who will not follow directions and I would take their puppet and tell them to follow along with their hand. After a minute or two, I would ask them if they thought they could remember their puppet manners and would ALWAYS receive and emphatic, "Yes!" I never could bring myself to deny them the fun of playing for the whole class period. In the meantime, any other students pondering a breach of puppet etiquette had hastily reconsidered. It is just too much fun to have a puppet on your hand.
Much of what I know about working with puppets and kids, I learned from a librarian in our district. You also learn a lot from the kids themselves. There is no more satisfying feeling than hearing 22 voices cheer when they come into a library and see the puppet stage out and the puppets laid out for them.
Thanks to Nat Pacheco, via Puppeteers Unite for this bit of Muppet history. This is why we loved Jim Henson!