Gr. 4 Drama students show off their new puppetry skills in a video assignment that asked them and their sock puppet buddies to recite the class's "drama chant."
Elizabeth Zitelli was looking for a fun way to help her new Gr. 4 Drama students dive into theatrical concepts and spark their creativity, and she decided puppets were a terrific fit for both the age group and hybrid-learning environment. She devised an array of assignments that helped students practice specific aspects of puppetry and explore basic theatrical concepts, for example differentiating characters’ voices, and tasked students with submitting a final video for each.
“Puppets were so perfect for the hybrid format, particularly as we were just gearing up for in-person learning again, as students could be the directors/playwrights, as well as the entire cast of the plays they wrote,” Zitelli says. “I wanted them to escape into their own imaginations and have total creative control over a small part of their world.”
As part of the class, students enjoyed a lively virtual visit from master puppeteer Honey Goodenough of Puppet Showplace Theater in Boston, Mass., on October 2. Ms. Goodenough discussed her more-than-15-year history as a marionette puppeteer and introduced the girls to some of her favorite characters, including Rocco the Sock Monkey, who had his audience giggling gleefully with his mischievous one-sided game of hide and seek.
Goodenough talked about the many different kinds of puppets, then took the class on a top-to-bottom tour of the Puppet Showplace Theater, including behind the curtains to see the puppeteer’s perspective. Finally, she explored with girls how the five P’s of puppet characterization (pitch, pace, place, personality, and projection) help build characters. They had a lot of fun talking about how specific details, from a character being an anteater to having a Boston accent, might shape the other P's and help build a complete character.
Zitelli says her students had a blast throughout the visit and greater unit. Through the class’s Flipgrid video sharing page, everyone had a chance to watch each other’s project submissions and record their own video responses.
“I really enjoyed teaching the class through this medium and celebrating with the students what they’d created,” the teacher says.
Master puppeteer Honey Goodenough (top right) virtually visited Elizabeth Zitelli's Gr. 4 Drama class as part of their exploration of the art of puppetry.