Students can be quite skittish about speaking in front of the class in English. I discovered that performing a hand puppet play is a great shot in the arm. First formers are vacillating between the magical world of early childhood and their budding rational mind. Having their puppet speaking instead of themselves somehow pushes them over the threshold.
Also Punch and Judy offer an intriguing gateway into typically English folklore. Puppet shows are available galore at the internet, for example this one. An interview with a a genuine Punch and Judy “professor” will provide a nice learning experience by listening to native speakers.
Being an art teacher I can easily have the children make their own puppets. But that is not really necessary, in my experience anything that can be manipulated above an improvised hiding screen may represent a character in a puppet play, for example in a show titled “Mr Brush meets Ms Dustpan”. If you don’t buy this argument, any toy shop will provide you with puppets which are more traditional and not prohibitive.
Also you don’t need an elaborately decorated puppet booth. Any cardboard box with a hole in it will do. I have noticed, to my amazement, that even when you don’t hide at all, students keep looking at the puppet in your hand, not a the mouth that actually produces the voice.

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