graders were challenged to create a
shadow puppet based on a character
from a story familiar to them. Students were presented the problem of
creating characters that would look
interesting in shadow, and that operated with at least two movable parts.
As a culminating activity, plans for
each student to write and perform
a short script behind a handmade
shadow screen were discussed.
A full class period was set aside
for performance. Hiding behind our
improvised screen, each student
played the important role of the dhalang for an audience of their peers.
Shadowy figures danced across the
illuminated screen in our darkened
classroom and the art of storytelling
was brought to life.
Possible characters were brainstormed as a class. Little Red Riding
Hood, the Big Bad Wolf, Pinocchio,
and the Cat in the Hat were among
the many ideas. In the end, many
students created characters that had
exaggerated or recognizable features.
Students sketched their ideas on
Manila paper before transferring
their final character to gold scratch
Movable parts such as arms, tails,
and wings were drawn separately
on the same piece of scratch board.
Using wood scratching tools, students etched intricate patterns and
designs onto their characters. Some
added texture to show fur or hair.
Once their designs were complete,
students used scissors to carefully
cut out their puppets.
With a small hole punch and tiny
brads, students created joints for
the movable parts. Each received
three wooden skewers—one for the
puppet’s handle, the other two as
controls for the movable parts. Students partnered up to carefully tape
the wooden sticks in place. As they
completed their puppets, students
set to work on creating a short script
for a performance.
While students worked out their
designs and stories, I constructed a
simple screen out of black museum
board and white butcher paper. A
large square was cut from the center
of the museum board (I left an 8"
space at the bottom of the board so
that students’ hands would not be
seen.) White butcher paper was laid
over the square cut-out and taped to
the back side of the board. A small
stage was created by setting the
board onto a table at the front of the
roo m. Desk lamps set
clos e to the back side of
the museum board were
use d to illuminate the
Shannon Stephens teaches art at Beck
Elementary School in Trophy Club, Texas.
Students use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.
Puppet seen from the front of the screen.