Top 10 tips for using PuppetPals
1) Spend time with your pupils thinking about the story line.
Give them a context they are motivated by, try linking it with a greater theme that you are using in your teaching. A clear plan is needed so that the children’s story’s don’t ramble on aimlessly. With the younger children you may actually like to get them to write their story word for word to help keep them on track.
2) Revisit the importance of high quality dialogue in a cartoon.
Initially children may resort to making noises instead of using high quality story telling language and dialogue between characters. KS1 boys find it very difficult not to have their characters constantly fighting without some scaffolding towards effective speech first. You may want to make a movie yourself first of all and create a massive fight scene and use very little speech. The children will find it highly amusing…but will have no idea what is going on!
3) Choose the right characters for the right story.
Engage your pupils in the importance of character description in a story. Does your evil character need a scar? Should the heroine of the story be a lot smaller than the other characters? Etc etc. This is an excellent way of engaging the children in thinking about their audience.
4) Get the pupils to use themselves as characters.
A function of PuppetPals allows you to take pictures for the characters. Involving the children in their own cartoon has immediate ‘buy in’ from both the pupils and their parents. You create a video the children want to show to their parents and the parents want to show to their friends and family. This year I had the children to come into school dressed as a person with power (we had characters from Spiderman to doctors, from presidents to Sheiks), these characters proved to be a great base for their movies.
5) Spend time on getting the cropping right!
The finished product looks better if the children take their time whilst cropping the images – explain that it will give their movie a more professional finish.
6) Prepare all your scenery.
The option to import any backgrounds that suite your story, really makes these movies come to life. With a quick tug of the curtain leaver above the screen the setting seamlessly changes. Get your characters to exit the screen, pause, change the scenery and then reintroduce your characters for a high quality transition.
7) Record in a quiet area.
This can be particularly difficult in a classroom as I’m sure we’re all aware! The microphone tends to pick up the background noise and even if your pupil speaks loudly and near the microphone, the background noise can be distracting when watching the movie back. I tend to spread my children out around all available areas when recording. Can you use the corridors? Outside? The library? Etc.
8) Be careful not to make mistakes!
One of the draw backs of the product is that you aren’t able to edit the movies in PuppetPals. If you make a mistake you may be left with two options 1) Record the movie again or 2) Ignore the mistake. If your pupils are a little more technically minded you could save it as a movie, import it to iMovie and edit sections back together there – mistake free.
9) Share it.
This is exactly the sort of high quality work that all the school stakeholders want to see. Make sure you show your senior management what amazing things are going on in your classroom. Save it as a movie and find an effective way to share it with parents. You may like to use supplementary apps such as dropbox to help you with this.
10) Don’t just use this for creative writing.
This app is very versatile and it is a bit of a shame that it will get put in the corner only to be used for creative writing. The creators say themselves they have been blown away by some of the creative ways that educators think of using the program. Could you use it as an instructional video or to help children with ESL? Is there an introduction to a maths lesson or a science investigation hidden within? Just do what we do best…be creative with an exciting tool and completely surprise and engage our pupils!