Two years ago I introduced puppets to the Keswick Convention Prospects sessions and they were very popular. Molly came to ask lots of questions and we held a puppeteering workshop on the Tuesday afternoon. Here’s a reminder: People, puppets and praise.
Last year my daughter and her friend, who both are on the team of our Good News Group, took a similar workshop.
This year I wanted to move the puppet skills on and teach something more useful for those who had done puppets with us before. We also had to make sure that the language and processing levels were right for the group too. So this is what we did…
First we taught the whole group the basic puppet skills such as making the puppet look at the audience, how to use their wrist and arm for different kinds of movement, how to show expressions and character traits. My daughter then taught us all some basic dance moves such as ‘the walk’, ‘the slide’, the shimmy’ and ‘the bop’!
We then split into two groups and I took my group to a classroom to learn how to have a conversation between two puppets…using ‘knock, knock’ jokes. I was thrilled that this worked really well. Participants were able to practice their lip-syncing and puppet eye-contact and taking turns in a simple conversation. Followed by a hearty laugh at the end!
My daughter taught the other group a simple co-ordinated dance to the song “Happy” by Pharrel Williams. They worked in pairs to make their puppets dance together following the sequence she had devised. Again, this worked really well.
- Two years ago one woman loved the puppets so much that she got her mum to buy her a puppet just like Molly. Since then she has been almost inseparable from her puppet, called Jessica, and she uses Jessica to be her communication and confidence support. This young woman has grown in confidence a lot since she bought Jessica.
- An older woman with dementia had come along with her family. She held a teddy bear puppet all through the session and learned to make it dance. When she came to our meeting this morning, she asked for the puppet again so she could sit with it. It made her smile.
- A woman from Malaysia visiting the Convention said she had been taught how to make puppets and had made many…but hadn’t been sure how to use them. This session gave her lots of ideas and the confidence to develop some ways of using the puppets in her setting in that country.
- The whole afternoon was such a delight. Everyone who came was involved, engaged and was able to access the session. Special thanks go to Karen, our signer, who enabled one of our deaf guests to access every part of the dance teaching session through using some very inventive and imaginative strategies! She also made very good use of my signing puppet and named him “Hans”.
Why use puppets?
Puppets seem to appeal universally to all ages and abilities. We’ve always find that most adults with learning disabilities find them fascinating and enjoyable. And they can be age appropriate by the actions and content you use with them. For example, we often use our puppets to bring a Bible character to life. Our puppets can also cover current affairs, discuss difficult issues and ask all the questions you often wish you could. They also are a great source of humour and can easily be cheeky which often makes the listeners laugh and be on the puppets’ side.
Puppets can also be used for ‘singing’ along to a song or dancing to it. This can enhance worship and sometimes provide a reflective visual performance for people to engage with.
Puppets can be the ‘voice’ of someone who is shy or finding it hard to communicate. Like the young woman in our group, the puppet can build a character that they wish they were able to be, and in time, build their own confidence so that they can do things they wouldn’t have done before. For example, that same young woman now sits with different people in church apart from her mother. This is helping her learn to become more independent.
There are lots of other things too which I can write at another time. I’m so tired today as we had a party after being on the main stage on Wednesday (I’ll write about that next!) and I didn’t get to bed till 1.00am. I never stay up that late!!!
Oh, and my daughter and her boyfriend got engaged here in Keswick yesterday…. 😀