Puppet Talk

Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems have been very popular with our students this year. During our state book award unit with first grade, I read aloud We are in a Book! After reading, we did a puppet talk activity.

I struggle with planning hands-on activities that relate to our stories, but aren’t busy work. I despise coloring sheets. In fact, I’ve cleaned over three feet (not kidding) of worksheets out of the filing cabinets in the library I inherited this year. It’s great for scrap paper and does not belong in my library.

Because the story is written almost entirely in speech bubbles I thought students could write their own story. However, time is always tight and I knew there wasn’t any way students could write even a simple story in the time we have. So, I made Elephant and Piggie into puppets!

I found two versions of each character and copied them onto cardstock. I also copied several styles of large speech and thought bubbles onto colored cardstock. Those I cut out and laminated ahead of time. On the tables each group of students had scissors, craft sticks, dry erase markers, tape and a pencil.
After reading the story I reviewed each step of the activity with students and drew a flow map charting the sequence. As they got up from their seat students chose one elephant and one piggie outline. At their table they quickly cut out each character, taped a stick at the bottom, and wrote their name across the back. Then, students moved their puppets into position and used the speech bubbles to write new dialogue.

In observing students I could see who was retelling We are in a Book!, who mimicked my example speech bubbles, and who created entirely new dialogue. Each strategy is an appropriate way for first graders to interact with the text.

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