Acting Out the Story: A Reading and Playing Activity for Younger Children

This simple activity can help make reading into a more fun and participatory experience for children ages 3 to 7. In it, you'll make puppets the kids can use to act out a story you read aloud to them.

Recommended Time: 

10 to 15 minutes


To help keep young children engaged in reading.

Materials and Equipment: 
An appropriate book
Several flat sticks, such as tongue depressors or popsicle sticks
Construction paper
Preparation (Before You Begin): 

Select a book that has a number of different characters, such as Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale by Verna Aardema, which we use here. Ideally, choose one that has the same number of characters as children in your class. Aardema's book has many different animal characters.

On the construction paper, draw pictures of each of the characters, then attach them to the tops of the sticks to form puppets. The pictures do not have to exactly represent the characters. For example, in Aardema's book, the characters are animals, so you simply have to draw pictures that represent those animals. If you have more children in your class than there are characters in the book, make duplicates of some of the characters until you have enough puppets for every child.

Activity Steps: 

Read the Book Aloud

Step 1: Place the puppets in the book so that the sticks jut out, but the puppets can't be seen.
Step 2: Have the kids gather around you in a circle sitting on the floor with hands in their laps.
Step 3: Hold out the book so that the sticks are pointing toward the children and have them pull out one of the puppets. When everyone has one, go around the circle and tell each child which character they have selected.
Step 4: Show everyone the cover of the book, and read the title aloud.
Step 5: Explain that you need the children's help to make this story work by acting it out. Instruct them to listen for their character and use their puppet when their character is mentioned.
Step 6: Read the book aloud and encourage the kids to move their puppets around in keeping with the story when their character appears.



Make It a Project

  • Use the book over and over as a read-aloud for your unit, semester, or other curriculum segment until the class has it almost memorized. Have the kids create their own puppets as the basis for drawing activities.
  • Add a technology component by having children use a software program (e.g., KidPix) to draw the puppets; they then can print them out and glue them to the sticks. Or, you can have the kids photograph their puppet show and make a digital storybook.