Using Storytelling and Puppet Shows in Homeschool

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on May 16, 2012.

One of the best ways to engage children in the learning process is through stories.  I’ve tried to use storytelling often with my children, and now that my eldest is five, he loves to be told stories.

Though books are wonderful, there’s something special about mommy or daddy telling a story that they have made up just for him.  Although my son doesn’t always want to look at a book, I’ve never had him turn down the opportunity to be told a story.  I truly believe that fostering this love of stories will lead him into reading and writing on his own.

I’ve witnessed some exciting side effects of this storytelling – my son loves to tell me the stories that his daddy has told him and vice versus.  Although he may exaggerate the details a little, I know that his comprehension is good, and this is something that teachers look for in elementary school.

Occasionally he wants to make up his own stories too.  It’s always exciting to me to listen to him and know he’s using his creativity and learning how to structure a story.  It also teaches me patience because his stories can get quite long!  At bedtime it makes for a good stalling tactic, so I have to keep him in check there.

Earlier this year I wanted to make storytelling a part of our morning activities.  Before I decided what to do, my son had his own idea.  He got out some little finger puppets that we had, and he wanted to do a puppet show.  That’s when our morning puppet shows became a ritual.

At first we just had fun with the six little finger puppets.  We – the five-year-old, two-year-old and me – would each take turns hiding behind our love seat and holding up the puppets for the “audience” to see.

I’m not the best storyteller in the world, but I could take the little puppets on a walk through the forest or by the ocean, and they’d find lots of interesting things to look at.  My five-year-old picked up on this theme and would repeat it during his show, but he always put a creative twist on it.

Surprisingly, my two-year-old could put on a pretty good production too.  He especially liked to feature his toy dinosaurs in the puppet shows!

At some point I showed my sons some puppet shows on YouTube to give them different ideas about what puppet shows could be like.  We watched a really good one that a little girl did using Eric Carle’s “The Hungry Caterpillar” story.  After that, my five-year-old wanted to do it too.

That’s when we started making our own puppets.  We recycle old cereal and frozen pizza boxes and cut out the shapes of the puppets.  Then we decorate them with construction paper or felt or whatever we have.  We glue popsicle sticks on the backs to use as handles.

We’ve done “The Hungry Caterpillar,” “The Little Red Hen,” “The Three Little Pigs,” and then we used a story that my son wrote himself (and dictated to me).  It’s called “The Little Lightning That Was Afraid to Strike.”  We made puppets for that too.

(Note: As you can see, much of the “artwork” – if you call it that – was done by me.  My five-year-old doesn’t have the skills yet to do it on his own, and he’s quite a perfectionist, so he gets frustrated easily. I’ve decided it’s okay for me to do this work as long as he gives me input on how I should create things, watches me do it, and he also has to try to make some of the easier stuff on his own.)

Recently I experimented teaching math during a puppet show.  I had two toy dinosaurs try to figure out some simple math equations, but one of them kept giving outlandish answers like 2 + 3 = 146,789.  The other one would roar at him.  My boys were laughing hysterically, and I knew I was on to something.

I hope to keep using puppet shows in our homeschool and use it for teaching various subjects.  Like everything, it’s a slow process, and I don’t want to force it, or the boys will be turned off.  If we do keep it up, I’ll reward the boys someday by taking them to the Center of Puppetry Arts, which happens to be in Atlanta!

I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog because I’ll be sure to write more about storytelling and puppet shows.  Do you use storytelling or puppet shows in your homeschool? Please tell me about it!  And check out my storytelling page for more information on how you can use storytelling in your homeschool.  Thanks for stopping by!