My teaching partner, Paula, has taught me a lot of the past three years. While I’ve blogged before about many of the things that I’ve learned from her, there are also a couple of more. Paula showed me the dark side to puppets and bubbles. What?! How can these two seemingly harmless things come with a dark side? Let me explain.
Puppets. The paper bag variety is likely the most popular option, especially in young primary grades, but we can’t forget about the popsicle stick choice. There are also those nice expensive puppets with the mouths that open and close. Just place them on your hands, and they’re supposed to result in hours of fun. I was taught all about the benefits of puppets in Faculty of Education courses, and later, through teaching experience. “They are so good for oral language development,” I heard. And I can understand this. Puppets are all about getting kids to talk, but also to listen and respond to each other. Have you ever watched kids play with puppets though? This is a case, I think, of where theory does not align with practice. Here’s what kids do — sometimes when you’re looking and sometimes when you’re not looking: they open up the puppet’s mouth, stick it in the other person’s face, and make an “Argh, argh, argh” sound as the puppet tries to snap and bite at the other person. You know that you’ve seen this before. If not, give kids of any age — even teenagers — paper bags, and have them make puppets. Or even give them one of the expensive varieties. I guarantee you that there will be snapping, sounds, and almost no real conversation. If you want the wonderful oral language opportunities that you’ve read and heard about, then you need to be right there with the puppets. Don’t move. Don’t walk away. If so, kids will definitely be back to the “argh, argh, argh” puppet play. 🙂
What Paula and I value a lot in our program is the independence of our students.
- If they want more paint, they get it.
- If they need a chair, they find it.
- If they’re looking for glue, they can even hold and pour the big bottle. Trust me: it terrified me the first time that I saw this in action, but this child did it then, and every time past then.
- Knives, hammers, screwdrivers: our kids know how to use all of these items responsibly, and they do, in so many different ways.
We love to be able to sit down and start at a space, ask questions, possibly provide an inspiration, and then walk away. Absolutely nothing in our classroom requires us to be there indefinitely. In fact, if it does, then we don’t do it. And the problem with puppets is that to truly use them in the dream-like ways that we hear about, you really cannot venture too far away from them. Plus, even if they do work, they can often only be used in a single way with a single purpose. I think that the richness of learning comes with the open-ended creativity that stems from open-ended materials. I wonder if puppets are really that open-ended.
Then there are bubbles. When I was at another school, I used bubbles with our kids all the time. We often made them outside.
Social skills, oral language, & even some math concepts as we explore with bubbles! https://t.co/3e1L6SGFLz
— 𝘼𝙫𝙞𝙫𝙖 𝘿𝙪𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧 (@avivaloca) May 9, 2016
Bubbles look like so much fun. Joyful almost. And I guess that they are, but they can also be incredibly dysregulating. Bubbles often cause screaming and running. They’re up-regulating. Some kids need to be up-regulated, like the child that comes in tired each day and needs energy to learn. But when we use bubbles in a central space, as a whole class, those few kids that might benefit are likely to be lost in the sea of others that might not. In fact, looking back now, I wonder if some of the behaviours that I noticed in the afternoon were caused by our bubble blowing in the middle block. Was my attempt at supporting Self-Reg, actually doing the opposite? This is when the “self” piece of Self-Reg is so important. If bubbles are pulling together the whole class, is the “self” component being lost?
This week, another school year comes to an end. Along with puppets and bubbles, I’m also not a big fan of cupcakes, cookies, donuts, ice cream, popsicles, freezies, and other party fun. I probably sound like a big Grinch. Maybe I am one. It’s not as though I don’t want to celebrate a successful year, but just like some kids, I have many mixed emotions about the year ending. Both Paula and I are moving schools at the end of this year, and while we should probably have our classroom almost cleaned out by now, we’re actually in the midst of adding more to it with the Grand Opening of our Pet Salon on Tuesday. Monday also brings with it, requests for Pet Salon items.
Sometimes celebrating can also be achieved through consistent routines, child-directed play, and the love of what is normal. Paula and I might end up sleeping over at the school on Thursday to get everything cleaned and organized 🙂 , but we will get it done. The last few days of school, often bring with them opportunities for added fun. How might kids interpret these different activities? What might be another side — a darker side — to some of them? I often hear the words, “But children love ___________ [fill in the blank accordingly].” Not everything that children love is good for them though. Do we need to reconsider some of these options? Paula gave me a different perspective on puppets and bubbles. Maybe there are also different sides to other things “fun.”
You live in my head sometimes. I wanted to bake every day with my class last week. 2 was what worked out, because that’s what we were able to manage without totally dysregulating our universe.
Are you and Paula moving together? (Crossing fingers, here)
Thanks for the comment, Lisa! I love your example of how you balanced your needs with those of the kids. Learning to adapt to change is good too. I wonder though if at these more stressful times of the year, if it’s routine that holds all of us — kids and adults — together.
As for your moving question, we are both moving to the same school to teach kindergarten. We may not be in the same classroom. Maybe there’s a challenge in here then of working to extend a team well beyond the classroom walls.