- Keywords: Puppet show, passive form, creativity
- Learner English level: Pre-intermediate and above
- Learner maturity: Junior high school and above
- Preparation time: 5 minutes
- Activity time: 50 minutes
- Materials: Tablet or video camera, coloured paper, felt-tip pens, scissors, transparent adhesive tape
Puppet theatre workshop is a learner-centred activity that involves students creating and filming their own puppet shows. Unlike what often happens with role-play activities, students do not need to face the fear of performing in front of other classmates and the teacher, and instead can concentrate on producing their show.
This activity can be adapted to practise various language points, but for the purpose of this article I have chosen the passive voice. The aim is not to teach the passive form as such, but rather to demonstrate and review the functions of describing a process.
Step 1: Find a video of a simple but entertaining paper puppet show.
Step 2: Brainstorm a list of processes (e.g. production of coffee, paper, etc.).
Step 1: Using illustrations or props, elicit how milk is manufactured (e.g. cows are milked, milk is taken to the factory). Hopefully students will recall the passive form from previous lessons. If not, give them some guidance. Highlight transition words for sequence order (e.g. first, next, after that).
Step 2: Explain that they will be making and filming their own puppet show and elicit information to see what they know about puppetry. Have a brief discussion and show them the video of the paper puppet show.
Step 3: Divide students into groups of 3 or 4. Have students choose a process from the list or let them come up with their own. Ask groups to decide roles for each member: cameraman, narrator, and actor(s).
Step 4: Give students time to brainstorm and write down the instructions for their chosen role. Limit explanations to about 5-7 steps to ensure that there is enough time for making puppets and filming. Encourage students to use their imaginations. The roles do not necessarily have to reflect reality.
Step 5: Monitor progress, assist where necessary, and be strict about time.
Step 6: When students are ready, demonstrate how to make a simple paper puppet by sticking a cutout drawing onto a pen with tape.
Step 7: Hand out coloured paper, felt-tip pens, scissors, and tape. Give students time to make paper puppets, backdrop(s), and a title sign.
Step 8: Have students rehearse the show before filming.
Step 9: Tell students they only have one take, so even if something goes wrong, they will have to keep going. Instruct the cameraman to record the performance while the narrator reads the script and the actors manipulate the puppets.
Step 10: Let students watch a playback of their performance (or each other’s performances in the case of larger groups) and have a good laugh. If time allows, have an informal feedback session.
This activity was designed for after-school classes of 3-6 students, but can be adapted for larger groups and different levels to practise various language points.
Some successful variations I have tried are creating a “Kewpie (a well-known Japanese doll) 3 minute cooking” video to practise instructional language; and recreating a fairy tale as part of a narrative writing exercise. These can also easily be transformed into longer projects over several lessons.
Through doing something hands-on together, students create a more memorable connection between language and context, and even shy or lower-level students can easily find ways to participate. With a bit of luck, some may even discover their hidden artistic side.