Monday, November 5, 2007

Using Puppets to Tell Stories

A story leads the listener into an imaginary world, peopled by the imagination and the storyteller’s words. So why intrude into this world with puppets and other props? It's a good question, and there are several good answers. As a teller who likes to use puppets sometimes when tleling stories with children, I've found that puppets add a new dimension to some stories, and can provide an avenue for dramatic play if I incorporate audience members into the telling, as I often do.

There are other reasons for using puppets. Learning occurs in many ways. Some people are auditory learners, some are sensory, others are kinesthetic/tactile. In an audience of three children, a storyteller may face three discrete learning styles.

Puppets are visually attractive; they can move, speak or act, reaching each child’s individual learning style. A puppet varies the mental stimulus, thereby keeping attention focused for longer periods of time. A puppet can demonstrate an emotion that might not be clear to a child in the story's text, and can act out words that are beyond vocabulary levels of young audiences. Puppets also:

1. Give color, texture and dimension to story characters and actions.

2. Make a story come alive the same way pictures in books do

3. Provide visual clues to the story’s meaning while presenting the tale in a new format.

4. Add dialogue to a story and provide opportunities for audience interaction, creating a multi-dimensional experience.

5. Connect the storyteller with hard-to-reach audiences.

Here is an example of a story that can be told with a puppet. It's short, dramatic, focuses on one character, and has good dialogue. This is one of Aesop's fables--many other fables from Aesop are also adaptable for telling with a puppet. I am providing the "bones" of the tale--it's up to the teller to flash it out into a full story!

The Bat, the Birds and the Beasts

Once there was a big argument between the birds and the beasts. A battle was about to begin.

Bat hesitated, not sure which side to join.

The birds said: "Come fight with us."

Bat said, “I am a beast, not a bird.”

The beasts said: Come fight with us."

Bat said, “I am a bird, not a beast.”

Luckily peace was made and there was no battle.

Bat wanted to celebrate with birds, but the birds said, “You are not one of us. You are a beast.”

So Bat went to celebrate with the beasts, but the beasts told him, “You are a bird, not a beast. We will tear you to pieces.”

"Now I see," said Bat. "I must know who and what I am if I want to have friends."

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