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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Puppetools: Advancing the Language of Play

Jeffrey Peyton, the creator and founder of Puppetools, is convinced that there isn't enough play in education. Young minds are being stifled by workbooks and tests and children need more time to flex their creative muscles...he's right of course. This is one of the many reasons some parents choose to homeschool.

Mr. Peyton's answer to this problem is Puppetools, a subscription-based website designed to support a community of teachers who are willing to explore creative play with their students. Here you will find numerous videos and other instructions on how to open the world of the imagination with simple, inexpensive tools and materials: quality construction paper, scissors, a little bit of glue, and a lot of creativity. You will also find instructions on how to construct a paper hinge (that's the puppet's movable mouth) and, if you need some inspiration, a few dozen downloadable templates to get you started. My kiddos didn't need the templates, though. Once I showed them how to make the paper hinge and gave them their choice of construction paper, they were off and running, creating ducks, pink birds and even a baby alligator.

Besides providing instructions for how to make puppets and how to incorporate puppetry into your teaching, the website also provides a forum for members to share what they are doing with puppets and to ask for advice or ideas. Some of the stories of how paper puppets have been used to help modify troublesome behavior are quite impressive, to the point where I actually tried it myself. Would the kiddos settle down more readily if asked to do it by a puppet (or in my case a doll of the Virgin Mary)? Yes, they did! Perhaps it was the novelty of it...or maybe they thought Mama was temporarily off her rocker? Anyway it worked, what can I say?

While we don't normally have any difficulty incorporating creative ideas into our homeschool, reading through the site has reminded me of the value of using things like puppets and flannel board characters to enliven the mundane, to illustrate difficult concepts, and to create symbols that jog the memory...anyone have any ideas for a math puppet? I'm thinking maybe an inch worm sock puppet. Although the site got my brain working a bit, I have to say that the suggestions and ideas are not exactly revolutionary...there are plenty of similar ideas available on the internet for free.

Puppetools may not have a much value for the individual homeschool. If I happened upon it purely by accident, I know I would not have subscribed. The information presented on the website is squirreled away in various places, so it takes some persistent investigation to get to the heart of it, and time that most of us don't really have. But, since I was asked to use and review the site for the TOS Homeschool Crew, I took the time and did my best to do just that.

And what is at the heart of it? Studies show that creative play has a tremendous positive impact on the development of young minds (I knew that), and there is ample evidence provided on this site to back that up. But once you've gotten to the heart, have learned how to make the puppets and have gotten some ideas on how to use them during your day, there's really not much left for the individual. I do think that Puppetools could be a good resource for a homeschool co-op, a scouting group, a 4-H group or even a religious education program---a situation where you need to get several people on the same page, but I still believe you'll be hard-pressed to get your money's worth out of it. While there is a forum available for members to share advice and ideas, there seems to be little activity. And, as I mentioned before, ideas and instructions for making your own puppets are easy to find for free with a simple Google search.

You can purchase a 1-year individual subscription for $20. The year-long group subscription for $99 will support up to 30 users.

Disclosure: I received free access to the member portions of the site for review purposes. I received no other compensation.

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1 comment:

  1. I just had to say that I was intriqued by the little ad on your sidebar that said I could check out my blog's reading level. I had to chuckle, I guess I write at elementary level! LOL I guess that's what using words like "gonna" and "kinda" will do to ya! LOL


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