California Educator

April/May 2021

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L I Z A B E T H C H O Y h a d b e en a hi g h school teacher for 11 years when a vocal injury rendered her unable to talk for more than 30 minutes at a time. e Faireld-Su- isun Unied Teachers Association member gave up teaching English but continued with her drama classes. She taught herself how to make puppets to use in her lessons. One day, one of her nonverbal students with special needs began to play with a puppet, open- ing and closing its mouth. "He started doing this every day," Choy recalls. "He would mouth words while moving the puppet's mouth. I would talk to him with another puppet. Eventually he started conversing with me and making eye contact." Choy has about ve to eight kids with special needs in classes that range in size from 30 to 35. She realized that puppets would be helpful for all her students and incorporated making and using puppets into her curriculum. "Students have to develop their puppet's charac- ter from the ground up," she says, including "how they hold their body and head, their mannerisms and way of talking." Performing with puppets lets shy and self-con- scious students, as well as those with special needs, feel more relaxed about trying out "silly" voices and actions, Choy says, since everyone is looking at the puppet and not the student. The puppetr y unit of her curriculum runs about eight weeks. Choy created a pattern for students to make their puppets. Advanced students make bigger puppets that are operated by two or three people, encouraging teamwork. For several years Choy spent between $300 and $800 a year out Puppet Power Educator shows students how to build, convey character and story E A few of Elizabeth Choy's puppet creations, including her alter ego, Bok Choy (right). 44 Teaching & Learning Elizabeth Choy

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