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Moving hands in classroom assemblages: puppet play in a post-world

Karen Dianne Daniels (Department of Teacher Education, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 9 July 2020

Issue publication date: 1 December 2020




This paper aims to propose a reading of children’s small toy/puppet play that takes account of bodily movements within classroom assemblages. The researcher/author created representations of episodes of activity that focused on children’s ongoing bodily movements as they followed their interests in one Early Years classroom in England.


By drawing a contrast between a traditional logocentric interpretation of puppet play and an embodied theorisation, this paper provides a way of understanding young children’s literacy practices where these are seen as generated through bodily movement and affective atmospheres within classroom assemblages.


Analysis suggests that affective atmospheres were produced by the speed, slowness, dynamics and stillnesses of children’s hand movements as they manipulated the small toys/puppets. Three interrelated contributions are made that generate further understandings of embodied meaning making. First, this paper theorises relations between hand movements, materials and affective atmospheres within classroom assemblages. Second, the technique of analysing still shots of hand movements offers a way of understanding the semiotic and affective salience of hand movement and stillness. Finally, the paper offers a methodology for re-examining taken-for-granted pedagogical practices such as puppet play.


Together these contributions re-explore literacy as an embodied and affective endeavour, thereby countering logocentric framings of early literacy.



Thank you to the staff and children in the setting where the study took place. You allowed me to join in with you through the course of the fieldwork and beyond.


Daniels, K.D. (2020), "Moving hands in classroom assemblages: puppet play in a post-world", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp. 389-402.



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