Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Power of Puppets

"Gooood Mornnnin' First Graders!" This is the way Daniel the Spaniel, a 20 year old handmade puppet from my classroom days, has greeted all of his new school friends this year. Daniel says and does things that teachers wouldn't even think of saying or doing. Using his friendliest Southern drawl, he confesses to his audience that he likes "purdy girls", doggy naps and dog biscuits. But more importantly, when Daniel talks, croaks and sings, kids of all ages listen.

This year our school has about 75 new students. As a reading support teacher who comes in and out of the classrooms, I wanted a chance to introduce myself to all of the students in the school and offered to teach a mini-lesson to the class of the teacher's choice. I was surprised and excited by the response I received from the teachers. Several primary teachers who use the Daily Five approach in their literacy workshops, requested a lesson about picking just right books. One second grade teacher wanted me to talk about interesting words in books. And finally my biggest challenge was to teach a mini-lesson to a third grade group about reading a variety of "just right books."

The thought of working with a whole group of students (and their teachers) excited me but it also made my stomach flip-flop from nervousness. I knew that when I had used puppets in my classroom in the dark ages, the kids loved it so much that Daniel and several other stuffed friends became part of our daily routine. But I couldn't help but wonder if during these high tech times filled with video games, computers, digital cameras, DVDs, Ipods and more would still be entertaining...

With butterflies in my stomach, I ventured into the classrooms with a lesson plan in my head and Daniel the Spaniel stuffed in my bag. I may have felt nervous, but big, bold Daniel was not. He entertained, laughed, howled, chanted and even snored through his first appearance and many more. The children were mesmerized. They hung on his every word. The teachers laughed and giggled along with their students and some even cried. The experience was powerful and meaningful. The word spread throughout the school like a wildfire. To date, Daniel has made an appearance in most of the primary classrooms, several class newsletters, and even the school's monthly bulletin.

Although Daniel the Spaniel is missing some fur, a few eyelashes and even has a yucky stain on his felt mouth, I am confident that he will continue to spread the word about good fit books, interesting vocabulary, and many other important standards in our our high tech educational world filled with 21 century learners because Puppets are Powerful! You should try it "ya'll!"


  1. Your work is amazing and Daniel the Spaniel is another facet of your teaching young children the power of words, books, and learning. Sometimes the greatest teaching tool is the simplest things. Can't wait to hear what Daniel is up to this year!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Shelly! I am sure that Daniel is going to rock the readin' world at our school.