children learning english

A learning lesson – sharing puppets with younger children

Nowadays there are very few one teacher schools left. When I was a child they were quite common in rural areas.  Of course it was a huge task for one teacher but there were some benefits. One was that children were often asked to work with groups younger than themselves – and in the process leaned more than their schoolwork.

It was a practical solution in a small school where all ages were learning at the same time.

I was reminded of this when on my last day with the 10 and 11 year olds they brought their sock puppets – the ones they had made themselves – to a junior class of 5 year olds – many also ESL learners.

Using the puppets for interaction their task was to encourage the young children to speak – especially to ask questions.   Before the visit they had prepared the questions which their puppets would ask– simple getting to know you questions – such as name, age, how many in family, favourite colour or song or food. They had also prepared themselves to help the younger children to ask similar questions of the puppet.

This was going to be a new experience for the 10 and 11 year olds.  Excited, a bit apprehensive and fearing a complete breakdown in puppet talk they added a guessing game to the interaction.   For each puppet there was a picture card or small item which could be used to play a game.  They were careful to pick things the 5 year olds would know such as classroom items or pictures of food or toys

During this lesson older children were paired individually with a child or in some cases two younger children.  After five or six minutes each puppet was moved on to another child. In that way all the 5 year olds had the chance to meet at least three puppets.

The 5 year olds loved the puppets and responded wonderfully.

And what did the 10 and 11 year olds take away from the experience? At a basic level they learnt about

  • preparing thoroughly for a task
  • keeping their puppets in good condition – some repairs were needed after all the previous use!
  • paying attention to the language they were using – encouraging the 5 year olds, asking them questions, supporting them so they felt good about  answering.
  • looking at experiences from a younger child’s perspective.

Watching them during the visit I was so impressed by their kindness and how they moved from being young learners themselves to the role of caring and responsible older learner. The response from the younger children – their admiration and appreciation of the way the puppets were used – was so genuine that the class came away feeling very good about themselves and their achievements.  Their immediate reaction was “can we do it again with another younger group?”

Photos don’t do justice to the value of this experience but these three below give some idea.

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