Teaching With Shadow Puppetry

Shadow puppetry is a great tool for acting out stories, from historical narratives to myths and legends from cultures and religions all over the world. You can also use it for stories that children write by themselves or as a group. Whether you use it as just a class project, or end up with a performance at your school or congregation, it is great fun for everybody involved.

Small groups using desk top screens

The size of the puppets and the type of screen and light depends on what you want to do. Desktop screens are great for home school projects or for classrooms where children work in small groups and present their results to the class only.

Whole class using larger screen

If you want to present the stories to a larger audience you will need a larger screen and larger puppets, as shown in the photo above, where the light was provided by an overhead projector. All templates that I have provided as printables are made for desktop screens, but can easily be enlarged on a photocopy machine.

Performance of Pandora’s Box by 4th-5th graders in local UU church in curriculum “Why do Bad Things Happen?” using a big screen, overhead projector, and narrator

Narration and sound

Shadow puppetry works best with a narrator, either a teacher, a child, or a group of children alternating. Even if a performance takes place in the class room, the use of a microphone is recommended, not only for the audience, but also for the puppeteer behind the screen.

Further reading (limited)

A must-read for teachers is the above mentioned Worlds of Shadow, Teaching with Shadow Puppetry by David and Donna Wisniewski, which includes instructions about the use of an overhead projector.

Another book that I very much recommend is Shadow Puppets and Shadow Play by David Currell (2007), a study of the art of shadow puppetry, with clear descriptions of traditional and modern techniques and beautiful, colorful illustrations.