(This lesson isn't really quite a puppet project, but it ties in nicely.)
|Found Object Puppets
(Any object can be a puppet!)
(Big-mouth puppets from paper bags and construction paper.)
(Giant team puppets from old newspapers and masking tape.)
|"Japanese Doll Theatre"
(My incredibly simplified version of Japanese Bunraku puppets, using heavy paper.)
(You'll have to make or find a shadow screen first, but then it's pretty easy to make the puppets.)
It is not necessary to have any kind of "puppet theatre" to use puppets in the classroom. Of course such theatres can be a lot of fun, and if you have the space and the resources, by all means get one. You can build it yourself (I hope soon to get some suggestions online), or you can buy one ready made. But I have been using puppets with my classes for years without any stage at all, and in fact even when I have a stage available I don't use it all the time. Having the puppet and puppeteer out in the open allows the teacher to watch the child, rather than only the puppet, and see the way he is expressing the puppet's emotions in his own face. It allows the puppet to interact directly with the puppeteer. Plus, working without a stage means the whole class can work at once, which is often desirable. Many puppet traditions, such as the Bunraku in Japan, never use "puppet theatres" in the sense we think of in the west. The puppeteer is always visible along with the puppet. Interestingly, it is not necessary for the shy child to "hide" behind a puppet stage in order to lose his shyness--just the fact of the puppet's presence as central focus usually does the trick.
I define a puppet as "Any inanimate object that is manipulated so as to appear animate." I make and use puppets of one kind or another with nearly every grade level I teach. My very youngest students make "puppets" out of their hands. Some students make lunchbag puppets. Older students make newspaper puppets in teams. We make paper analogs of Japanese doll theatre puppets when my students are studying Japan. When I have the resources available, I make shadow puppets with older students. Nearly every grade makes found object puppets at some point. Most of these projects are pretty easy to do. Click on a link above to go to any of my pages on various kinds of puppets. (Some of these I invented myself, but most are borrowed or adapted from other sources buried somewhere in my past.) All of the puppet projects here are fairly simple, and can be made during class using materials readily available. I'll be adding new projects to this page periodically.
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