By: Annie Day
Each Sunday, as my husband and I head to teach our small primary class of five-year-olds, I am filled with trepidation. Will today’s lesson grab their attention or will I be left with a room of rowdy children? Although, on a good day our class only consists of nine students, to say it is difficult to constantly engage the students is an understatement. However, after a great deal of trial and error we have found one foolproof method: puppets. When we pull out our simple, homemade sock puppets, it’s as if we wave a magic wand, and our two puppets effortlessly grab the students’ attention.
Because of the amazing results I have experienced using this simple tool, I want to give a quick puppet-making tutorial, along with some simple teaching tips using these little friends.
- Select a sock. I have found that colorful or over-decorated socks can be distracting. So use simple colors and patterns for the best results.
- Place the sock puppet on your hand, tucking in the toe of the sock until it reaches the palm of your hand. This should create a small mouth and give your sock a little bit of life. At this point I like to manipulate my puppet to give it more expression. Expression can be attained by how you manipulate the mouth of the puppet; pull at the toe until you are happy with the shape of the mouth.
- After you are happy with the shape of the mouth of your puppet, all you have to do is a simple invisible stitch to connect the toe of the sock to the arch of the sock. This creates a puppet that will not lose its shape.
- This is the fun part—now you can add details as you see fit. Be careful not to forget the eyes! But outside of that, you can add crazy hair on your puppet, clothes, eyelashes, hair or any other accessories that fit the character of your puppet. The important thing is to be creative.
After your puppet is completed, be sure to follow these simple puppeteering techniques:
- When your puppet is talking, be sure to look at it. It can be a little scary if you and your puppet are both looking at the students as you talk.
- Be sure that the movement of the puppet’s mouth follows the vowels. The more animated, the better!
- Don’t keep your hand in one place; move the puppet around, focusing on different students. This works really well with students who may be losing interest.
- Most importantly, have fun! If you are enjoying yourself, your students will have fun too.
A special thanks to Professor Lisa Bean and the girls in my Theatre Class for your great puppets! You really inspired me!