Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Power of Puppetry

Thank you to Sara Lewis Holmes at her blog Read Write Believe for this link to a Washington Post article about the Peace Through Puppets organization.

I think puppets are one of the most powerful forces in the universe. My own introduction to the world of puppetry came from a fellow school librarian and I owe her a world of thanks every time Dragon and I sit down with children. (There are times when I wish that the snide, obnoxious creature had never shown up but kids seem to appreciate his anarchy even when I do not.)

I have seen the busiest children sit perfectly still and follow directions to the letter in order to experience the joy of a puppet on their hand. One of the most moving school stories I've ever heard was of a distraught child in the principal's office would only talk to the small simple Styrofoam ball and handkerchief puppet creation that was a fellow librarian's side kick for years.

I did a series of puppetry lessons with my students every year once I discovered their power. Dover has a terrific book, Making Puppets Come Alive: How to Learn and Teach Hand Puppetry by Larry Engler and Carol Fijan which is an excellent resource for teaching ideas and has a pattern for a simple, faceless hand puppet which I used. You will need a class set.

Puppets engage imaginations and emotions in deep and important ways. We bemoan the effects of media on young people today, well, I say, hand out the puppets and watch the magic happen.

Sara Lewis Holmes website


Anonymous said...

Camille, my son's 2nd-grade class had a student teacher who was also a puppeteer. The children had a ball and learned to make shadow puppets and put on fairy-tale adaptations with them. Everyone in the class had a voice during the shows, too. It was a wonderful experience.

One of the most beautiful theater pieces I ever saw was Ping Chong's adaptations of stories by Lafcadio Hearn. I was so skeptical going in, but came out of the show as a total puppetry convert. Exquisite art.

Camille said...

Houston Grand Opera did Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel with an amazing blend of puppetry and singers last December. We were wow-ed.

Puppetry in the classroom can do so much for accomplishing curriculum goals. People just have to start small and their ideas and skills will expand. I still consider myself a rank amateur but I love it.

Sara said...

Hi, Camille. Glad you found the Post story...it was very cool, and I hadn't seen it written up anywhere else.

One of the best presentations I ever saw at a writers conference was given by David Wisniewski, who wrote fabulous picture books like The Secret Life of Grownups and who started his career as a puppeteer. I believe he did mostly shadow and rod puppets. He recently passed away, but his bio is here: http://www.davidwisniewski.com/bio.html

Amy @ Literacy Launchpad said...

I use puppets pretty often with my kiddos and they love it! It's so fun to see the way they react. Some are skeptical of how the puppet works 9talks, moves, etc.), others are very believing and want to talk to the puppet endlessly. I usually have a hard time putting the puppet away!

Saints and Spinners said...

Thanks for posting this article! I used to bring out my Folkmanis monkey hand-puppet to be a friendly presence to children during library storytimes. Chester accepted hugs, handshakes or hand-waves, and the bravest people let him nibble their fingers. Chester did get huffy a few times when adults said, "Ohh, look at the toy!" He was a puppet, not a toy.:)

Ididn't know David Wisniewski died recently. It makes me sad. I'm still not used to the fact that Lloyd Alexander is dead.

John L said...

As a former puppeteer, I totally agree -- puppets are such a powerful tool for storytelling as well as teaching. Speaking of artists no longer with us, I’m still not used to the fact that Jim Henson is gone, seventeen years later. The Muppets are still around, but it’s not quite the same.

Camille said...

I just loved Jim Henson and Shari Lewis. Their passing was a real blow. Even though he does not talk, I feel Dragon owes much of his attitude and cheek to Lambchop.

I remember discovering David Wisniewski's Secret Knowledge of Grown-ups just before he died in 2002. It was like losing someone I knew would be a good friend (through their work) before I had a chance to get to know them.

Sara, you are so lucky to have seen him in person.