Using a Teacher Puppet is a Surprisingly Effective Way to Relieve Stress and Add Enjoyment to Your Classroom

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Towards the end of my second year teaching, I learned that using a teacher puppet relieves stress while presenting content effectively. This revelation came about thanks to one particularly rambunctious 4th grader. Let’s call him Big C.

Big C thought he was too cool for my music class and enjoyed talking back and questioning everything. He was the kind of kid who you had to force your heart to grow to love.  As a relatively new teacher, he drove me crazy and kept my class off task.

One day when I was particularly stressed I happened to have my snail puppet out singing a song. Big C started making fun of him and me, as he frequently did. Without thinking I had the snail talk back to him.  Surprisingly, Mr. Snail was able to put Big C in his place with a snide remark.  It was something I never would have said as a teacher, but the whole class laughed and Big C smiled and sat down without further disruption.  I continued teaching and the rest of the class went smoothly.  I felt really bad initially about the rude way I had spoken through the puppet.  But after seeing that the kids, including Big C, were happy and engaged I realized it was alright for a puppet to talk that way. In fact, it was even cool.  Ever since that day Mr. Snail has been my go-to teacher puppet and an important part of my classroom. Mr. Snail now even has his own YouTube channel.

My Teacher Puppet Mr. Snail
This is the puppet I use for Mr. Snail

 

How to make a teacher puppet effective

To make a teacher puppet effective the first thing you need is a puppet. Choose one that makes sense with your content.  I had a snail song and a snail puppet to start with, now I have a pretty large collection of puppets and songs that go with them.

Make your teacher puppet relate to the kids

Mr. Snail’s personality is that of the annoying kid in class who thinks he knows everything. He also says stuff a teacher would never say.  This gets to be important as the kids get older as it keeps the magic of the puppet being his own person even though they know it is the teacher making him talk.

You may need more than one teacher puppet to reach your whole class

Teacher puppet Bonnie Blob

My second most popular puppet is Bonnie Blob. She has a very tragic backstory: Bonnie is the last of the Blobs after a very sad accident. You might think this is too heavy for a cute classroom puppet, but my refugee, orphan, and foster kids can relate to her story more directly than they do to Mr. Snail’s arbitrary contrariness.  Also, she is quieter and more reserved than Mr. Snail, so she is good to bring out when the class energy is high and we need to tame it down.

You need to know your content really well.

When you are teaching with a puppet you need to be confident in both your lesson content and your character, otherwise the kids may not buy in.

Don’t be afraid to interact and have fun with the kids!

Let your puppet say things you would never say (but still keep it appropriate for school).  Have your teacher puppet talk back to the kids or even you.  If you are having fun, so will the kids.

Those are the things I keep in mind while teaching with my puppets. Check out Mr. Snail’s channel to see what I do.

Comment here introducing your puppet and telling us how you use/plan to use your teacher puppet to improve your teaching!

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28 Replies to “Using a Teacher Puppet is a Surprisingly Effective Way to Relieve Stress and Add Enjoyment to Your Classroom”

  1. I’ll have to let my friend know about this! She is about to start teaching first graders for the first time late August. I’m sure she’s nervous, and this would definitely help as she gets started on her new journey!

    1. Yes! Puppets are amazing for the first week of school especially for the younger kids. It is more fun to have them remind kids of expectations and keeps you from getting frustrated. Bonnie Blob is scared of feet so she goes away if kids don’t sit criss cross. Wish your friend good luck for a smooth year from us!

    1. The kids love the puppets so much! Once I had a whole kinder class crying because I left Mr. Snail inside during a fire drill. They were convinced it was real and he would die!

  2. This article is perfect for my friend who is a 1st grade teacher in NYC. She’s always looking for new ways to change things up in the classroom. Thank you for the referral links as well 🙂

  3. I can imagine that young kids absolutely love this! In Ireland in the 80’s there was a puppet called Bosco who was on the TV every day. I loved him. He even made a visit up to a local town hall that my dad took me to go and see. It was only recently that I realised that it must have been a living nightmare for him lol but Bosco taught me so much!

    1. Thanks for sharing such a fun memory! I hope my kids look back on Mr. snail with such fondness. Also I hope you thank your dad now that you know how crazy it must have been for him!

  4. We have a ‘family puppets’ and my son loves them he is only 15 months old so when he will be a little bit older we will start teaching him some things but for now we only play with them:)

  5. what an interesting post of using a teacher puppet.. Great to know that your comment via snail puppet helped kids engage & you made through the class smoothly!

  6. That is really great that you found a way to relate to the kids, I imagine working with older kids especially would be difficult. Very cool idea!

  7. I can’t imagine how difficult it must get at times, being a teacher! It warms my heart to knkw that there are wonderful teachers out there, like you, who go above and beyond bo matter what the challenge.

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