Paper puppets with a purpose

There have been some fascinating posts recently on Facebook and Twitter about the use of puppets in primary language teaching.Recently I bought all the associate teachers that work with me new puppets as our puppets were beginning to be not only very well loved but also some what worn out!Our younger children love the puppets, singing with them ,talking to them, watching the language assistants and teachers whispering or asking questions with the puppets etc.

The recent posts made me think about how years ago (1995 to be exact!) I created "paper puppets with purpose" for my language learners in UKS2. 

I started creating paper puppets with my Year 5 and 6 in primary,after watching a local playschool teacher using paper puppets to support a reluctant speaker.I was amazed by just how precious the children in Year 5 and Year 6  found them in their language learning.Indeed these puppets were still being made and used by my language learners in 2012- with the same effect!

As a learning tool they help with language retention and language practise.They make what might be perceived as simple or silly questions more sensible because you ask the puppet and they create opportunities to have simple dialogues between the puppets and the puppeteers. Plus every child had a learning tool that belonged to him/herself. 

They are brown paper envelopes - hand size 

and if you depress the top two corners and push the fold inwards carefully ,you can make a mouth and operate this from inside the envelope.

The children can make them into their own characters and customize them - clowns,sports stars, animals, cartoon characters etc. 
All my children's puppets had  an appropriate target language name linked to language we practised - so animals, foods, clothes, colours etc were very popular.
We kept our puppets in our class drawers and brought them out to learn with use very language lesson.
Mine were called "monsieur baguette" and "Herr Hamburger" as we used them in French and German.They even travelled to the Primary Languages Show in 2001!
  • The children could make the puppets talk of course!
  • The children could make the puppets whisper or talk in target language too by beating out the syllables in words using the mouth of the envelope opening and shutting in time with the rhythm of the words. 
  • They loved walking round the room practising dialogues and new questions- one paper puppet talking to another.
  • They used their puppets to participate in class songs 
  • They helped me to retell stories or add the repetition to stories

And finally let me introduce you to  a very old and good friend of mine ."Madame souris" She belonged to a pupil from 1997,Jennie B.Sadly you can tell that she is quite old now as the colour is fading etc .I often use her even now to share this idea with teachers and teacher trainees. 

 Simplest ideas are sometimes the best!

Beginning with languages blog 2

Across our network we work with schools who are all at different stages of setting up and delivering primary language learning and each year we welcome new schools who want to set off on their own individual school's language learning journey.

This year these specific "Beginning with languages " blogs will try to offer "bite size chunks" of indirect help and support to schools, who are doing exactly that .... just setting off and implementing  a language learning curriculum .In September I wrote Beginning with languages blog 1"

In the first blog there was a checklist for the coordinator or teacher leading out the new primary language teaching as follows:

Sept - Oct (first half term) Checklist
  • It's all about establishing a whole school support system for all your staff
  • It's about small steps and simple language learning
  • It's about children and staff beginning to enjoy language learning
Add a new checklist bullet point!
  • So how are you all getting on? How do you know that primary languages are being implemented in all the classes and are the teachers and children having fun in their learning? 

Maybe the suggestions below will help you to see what progress is being made and also encourage the staff to try out creative activities to add a touch of Art , performance, song and fun!

Whole staff engagement and sharing success with parents!
Well it's October now and you will be in to your second month of primary language learning in school and maybe it's time to promote what all of you have been doing in your language learning in a school assembly.Or maybe school has space for a whole school display to celebrate the language learning that has been taking place? 

A whole school sharing and celebration of what you have already achieved !

So why not take the opportunity to link the learning  in the classroom to a common whole school focus before half term?
This half term you have probably been focusing upon greetings, names , feelings and possibly numbers and colours.
Here are some really simple ways that colleagues have created display and activities with their classes with limited language, which you could adopt or adapt! 

A collage map of the target language country by children  in each class for the classroom door- to say we learn about this country and its' language in our class this year!

Hold a "swap the greetings " week. During the week challenge your teachers and their classes to use the correct greeting for the time of day.Maybe the children could greet each other around the school and what about adding a question and answer about how they are feeling to - no matter which child or age group and don't forget the staff too!Put the greetings on display in each classroom and possibly in the corridor too and invite your classes to try to use a different greeting in the morning, in the afternoon and at the end of the day.Here are some French examples

Use puppets to create puppet shows of greetings ,name question and answer and farewell phrases.Great idea for a class or whole school assembly by UKS2 for younger children.

Don't forget some AfL and also an opportunity for the children to reflect what they have already achieved. Maybe there is an opportunity for simple personal reports by older children to take home for parents and carers to share what they have been doing during this first half term of language learning

Linking simple language learning to schools celebrations of Autumn
Try some autumn themed games and activities with the simpler language you have learnt or are practising . Have a read of this Autumn blog about numbers,colours, leaves etc and share some of the ideas with your colleagues.

Set yourselves an end of half term whole school singing challenge!
Why not take up the challenge to have a go at a song in the target language. Listening and practising the words you can hear in the clips we suggest and adding actions and performance too!Learn a whole school song to celebrate Autumn and provide your teachers with an appropriate sound file and clip to help them.
Once you have set a date for a whole school assembly,the classes can practise the song until they can sing along confidently with the clip!

In French........

In Spanish

In German

 Beginning to keep evidence 

Whatever you do don't forget to take some photos and clips so that you can begin to create your own school portfolio of evidence as you go along on this language learning journey, ready to set up a sharing with parents' area on your school VLE etc.

Something a bit French, fishy and fun!

Celebrating Summer with a visit to the seaside?

Every year we take our young learners to the seaside in the target language ....well on a virtual tour!
We work with Year 5 on a comparison of beaches here and abroad.
Summer is also a time when the older children can share with the younger children some of their learning in end of year assemblies etc.  

This song about "les petits poissons" allows us to combine the work we are developing with a comparison of English and French seaside with some performance fun and the practise of the target language. 

We love this authentic and traditional song for young children about fish in the sea.We can unpack with the children the use of adjectives in this song and we can create our own versions with colours or different descriptive adjectives too.Then we can have some simple Summer fun with the song and the theme of fish! 


Les petits poissons
Dans l'eau,
Nagent, nagent,
Nagent, nagent, nagent,
Les petits poissons
Dans l'eau,
Nagent aussi bien que les gros.
Les petits, les gros,
Nagent comme il faut,
Les gros, les petits,
Nagent bien aussi.

You can find wonderful clips of the song to share with your children too. Take look here!

The obvious thing to do is to teach the children the song .... and why not get the children to play the song as well perhaps on recorders ?
It will make a great independent performance for the rest of the school.
Take a look here!

Add a visual performance element too ! 
Have a go at making your own origami fish puppets so that the children can create their own puppet performances of the song 

Click here on the jedessine website to find the French instructions for your class and yourself to follow.

Finally why not each the whole class a traditional party game based on fishermen and fishes ...."pécheurs poissons"

It's a simple rhyme and a traditional early years' French playground game- great for KS2 beginner learners or just for fun with older children!
Maybe Year 5 can teach Year 3 the game ? 
Below are the simple words 

Petits poissons 

Divide the class into two groups.One group are fishes and the other group are the fishermen.
The fishermen make a circle and join hands . they lift their arms up so there are arches through which the other children (the fishes) can weave their way in and out of the circle.The fishermen decide on which number they will drop their arms and close the net and see how many fishes they have caught.The caught fishes join the fishermen for the next round.Who will be the last to be caught?