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Learning Center Ideas: Storytelling with Puppets

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Who doesn’t love a good story? Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to teach children anything from science to social skills. Storytelling centers in the classroom particularly help students with their literacy skills by fusing reading and play. So what goes in a storytelling center?

Images of comfy chairs and a well-stocked bookshelf come to mind, but for young children, no story center is complete without props!
When children are first learning to read, they often enjoy hearing the same story over and over. Some children will even act out their favorite stories through play, a ritual that teaches ordering skills (beginning, middle, end) as well as cause and effect. Teachers can incorporate this practice into the classroom by providing puppets for children to act out a story after one is read to them. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find puppets to match your children’s favorite story, and collecting a large cast of characters can get expensive! That’s where Shelley Nicholson and Jessica Martinez come in. Their book Thrifty Teacher’s Guide to Creative Learning Centers provides a wealth of advice for creating the materials you need on a budget. Below are just a few of the types of puppets teachers can make out of everyday objects:

Mitten Puppets

What to Do:

  1. Fold a standard-sized sheet of felt in half
  2. Cut the top to the desired shape (round for a bear’s face, pointed for a bird’s beak, etc.)
  3. Open the felt and attach features to the half that will be the puppet’s face
  4. Squeeze the hot glue across the top and open the side before folding the felt over to create a mitten. Leave the bottom unglued


Sock Puppets

What to Do:

  1. Find socks at the dollar store
  2. Decorate each sock with felt, googly eyes, buttons, paint, or chenille stems to make the characters you want
  3. To create a mouth, fold a piece of cardboard or card stock in half. Glue on a piece of felt
  4. Put your hand into the sock puppet and glue the mouth onto the sock where your hand opens and closes


Animal Marionette

What to Do:

  1. Cover or decorate the oatmeal canister to be the body
  2. Pierce the two small holes on the top of the canister and four small holes on the bottom to allow for the strings that attach the legs
  3. Create the animal’s head or print an image
  4. Clue cardboard on the head for added durability. Trim any excess from around the image
  5. Attach the animal’s head to the bottom  (closed end) of the canister with hot glue
  6. Cut eight 2-inch sections of cardboard tube and decorate them to create legs
  7. Cut out four feet out of cardboard, ensuring they are wider than the circumference of the tubes
  8. Pierce a small hole in the center of each foot
  9. Cut four pieces of string long enough to allow for each to run through the length of the animal and up to the handles
  10. Run each string through the holes in the canister, the cardboard tube legs, and the hole in the bottom of each foot. Tie knots underneath the feet and secure with tape
  11. Create the handle by making a T shape with the craft sticks and secure them with hot glue
  12. Tie the top of each string to the handle

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