Bridges to Literacy through Puppetry

Bridges is:

A teaching model for fostering literacy through the arts in early elementary in which children learn to create characters, settings and stories through multi-media puppetry arts. Puppetry is rooted in the storytelling of cultures around the globe and easily engages diverse groups of students.

The goals of Bridges are:

• To clearly demonstrate the connection between the artistic process and the process of building literacy skills
• To build capacity in arts and literacy educators to implement Puppetry Arts for Literacy in their classrooms
• To advocate for this approach and to publish comprehensive online curricula that will be accessible to a national audience

How We Bridge the Arts and Literacy:

Bridge 1: Multi-Sensory Immersion in Story Concepts and Skills

Students learn literacy concepts such as settings, characters, dialogue and plot through physicalizing, visualizing and vocalizing stories. Immersing in stories through sensory information is developmentally appropriate for early childhood learners. It makes literacy concepts accessible and meaningful for a wide variety of learners, including students who are English learners, students with disabilities and talented and gifted. Take a look at how sensory immersion helps students understand an unfamiliar story setting:

Bridge 2: The Descriptive Language Process

This step by step process integrates descriptive language into the art-making process. Teachers describe students’ artwork in detail as they make it, modelling for students how to use language to talk about what we observe. They give students many opportunities to describe—this description helps students develop their artwork further and builds a habit of speaking in detail about their own perceptions and drawing inferences. Check out this example of teachers describing students’ physical expression of character emotions:

Bridge 3: Thinking and Working Like an Artist Using a Rigorous Artistic Process

The process of developing an idea through puppetry mirrors the process used in literacy, but it provides many more entry points for early childhood learners. We teach students a rigorous series of steps for coming up with and expressing story ideas through the arts and language. The steps of the artistic process we teach includes: brainstorming, explore and play, develop an idea, reflection or feedback and revision. Check out this first grade group’s artistic process as they develop an original story:

Bridges was developed through the work of ArtsConnection staff, teaching artists and classroom teachers at schools in Brooklyn and Queens over the past ten years. The program is supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Education:
Professional Development Arts Education Program (PDAE) Grant (2014-2018)
A recently awarded Assistance for Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grants Program (AAEDD) (2018-2022)