Questions from the ESL classroom: Setting boundaries with puppets, instruments, and more.

Puppets can help to provide a cultural connection to the classroom while helping young children learn English.

Puppets are often used in the ESL classroom for young children. These playful characters are used to provide a cultural connection to the classroom, to enhance storytime, and to model conversational phrases. In addition, the puppet can speak exclusively in English, and the teacher can speak in the child’s first language to help facilitate class activities.

Even in the most playful classroom, behavior issues with puppets can arise. For one educator, a few students started a “hitting game” with the puppet during class time. Should this problem arise, an educator can use the opportunity to set appropriate boundaries with the puppet and all the classroom props – such as instruments – and redirect the behavior back to appropriate, playful classroom behavior.

We asked curriculum authors and Master Kindermusik Educator Carol Penney and Cindy Bousman to provide a few classroom behavior tips.

Here’s what they had to say:

When the puppet is first introduced to the class, it is important to set and state acceptable behaviors. Be clear and simple when these are stated. The same goes with instruments, books, visuals, and all other materials used in the class. When a teacher does this, it’s  helping the children build and develop respect for other people’s “things.”

1. Start all over with a brand new puppet. Even if it is a homemade sock puppet. Talk to the children as a class about how to treat and handle this new puppet. If a child starts to hit the new puppet, immediately withdraw the puppet and explain why, then go on to the next child. The child needs to understand hitting the puppet is an unacceptable behavior.

2. Let puppet stay at home for a while. The teacher can use his or her own hand as a puppet – opening and closing four fingers together and thumb. To make it interesting, put circle stickers on hand for eyes.

3. Speak up. Say, “I don’t want you to hit my doll. You can touch him gently and sing or say hello or you can choose not to.” Make clear what you expect and/or remove the temptation.

Want to know more? Read more about using puppets in the ABC English & Me classroom in “One Puppet, One Language.”