NPR — In one first-grade classroom, puppets teach children to ‘shake out the yuck’

| November 15, 2022

By 90.7 WMFE — Cory Turner (NPR)

Teacher Leticia Denoya stands at the front of her classroom, at Natchaug Elementary in Windham, Conn. Her first-graders sit criss-cross applesauce on the reading rug.

“Do you remember last week, we worked with our puppets and we learned a new strategy?”

One little girl raises her hand: “Belly-breathing.”

That’s right, Denoya responds, to help with “heavy” feelings. She asks the students to name a few.

One child offers “angry.” Another: “sad, because someone took something away from you.”

For many children, it was the pandemic that took something away. Most at Natchaug come from working-class families and qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Some lost loved ones to COVID. Many saw parents lose work. And, in schools across the country last year, that kind of stress followed kids back to class and has led to all kinds of disruptive behaviors.

That’s the bad news. The good news is kids can be incredibly resilient, especially when they’ve got help – like the kind Denoya’s first-graders are about to get from a research-backed group of puppeteers.

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