This post was written by Suzanne Dionne a Visual Arts Teacher Pre-kindergarten – Grade Two at Rotella Interdistrict Magnet School in Waterbury, CT. Suzanne recieved the Connecticut Art Education Association Outstanding Art Educator award for 2013. View her blog Visual Arts Events by clicking here.
Are you looking for an integrated art project that covers all areas of 21st century learning? Shadow puppetry can combine the core subjects of English, Reading, and Language Arts with the Arts. All 4Cs considered to be essential skills for success in today’s world can be incorporated in a shadow puppetry program: critical thinking /problem solving, communication, collaboration and creativity/innovation. Life and Career Skills that can be taught through puppetry include: adapting to change, be flexible, manage goals and time, work independently, be self-directed learners, interact effectively with others, work effectively in diverse teams, manage projects, produce results, and be responsible to others.
Shadow puppet theater offers a wide range of educational potentials. Puppetry can be used effectively as curriculum based class projects to teach historical events, stories, world cultures (multicultural) and more. Using one’s imagination is an important part of the educational process. Puppetry breaks down barriers, invites participation, and leaves students with a long remembered educational experience. It lends itself to rich integration: writing, literature, design, craft, acting, drama, art, music, dance, movement, technology, school themes and more. Puppetry is easy to do. It can be done economically. There is quite a bit of research on the values of puppetry. Based on many reports what was found was that: drama improved reading readiness, reading achievement scores, oral language skills, story understanding, development of independent thinking, problem solving, collaboration skills, putting creative ideas into action and more.
Shadow puppet theater meets all nine standards of what qualifies as a “Best Practice” defined by the CT State Department of Education: A clear and common focus; high standards and expectations;strong leadership; supportive, personalized and relevant learning; parent/community involvement; monitoring, accountability, and assessment; curriculum and instruction; professional development; and, time and structure. Shadow Puppet Theater also fulfills National Standards for Visual Arts. All six content standards can be included.
Our school has a yearly theme that, whenever possible, is integrated into curriculum. The school theme for the 2012-2013 school year, beginning in the summer academic/enrichment program is “origins”. I decided to implement shadow puppet theater for the visual arts class. I became very interested in this, after attending a workshop at the NAEA Conference in 2012. Shadow puppetry originated in China. Therefore, I chose the Chinese story The Four Dragons by Tom Daning.
The first week of class (approximately four hours) included an introduction of shadow puppets and theater. Students watched 5-10 minutes of the Tangshan Shadow Puppet Theater on the Smart Board. Next, the story was read and the pages were shown to the students. A list of characters was already in place and students were randomly chosen for roles. They were shown how to draw outlines of the figures and were given assistance as needed. Once these sketches were completed on drawing paper, they were sketched over onto oaktag. The shapes were carefully cut out. Next,the movable parts, such as, arms and legs were drawn and cut out. These were joined by using hole punchers and paper fasteners. We also used thick yarn craft hair, doilies and pieces of colored cellophane. Skewers were used for the rods and attached to the puppets with craft straws and tape.
The second week of class the puppets were completed. A script was written from the story and narration parts were written on cards. Special effects were being researched, developed and tested. Students learned how to move their puppets. They were beginning to learn their narration parts, the story, and the performance. EVERY student had made a puppet(s). EVERY student had a narration part(s). I was fortunate to have a high school student assistant who helped tremendously with assisting and organizing the students with the narration. During this time, I was working with special effects. The classroom assistant helped with organization tasks.
By the end of the third week, we were in the recording studio. Our video technician taped and edited the four performances. Music was inserted. Adobe Premiere was the software used. Each student would receive a DVD of their performance.
Our performances were shown at the end of the summer school program at the end of the fourth week. The remainder of class time included a written assessment and two art activities: crayon resist painting and scratch art.
Currently, during our integrated art periods, our five kindergarten classes are working on shadow puppet theater performances. We have selected five different stories that will be taped and shown to our school and parents. These performances will be posted on www.schooltube.com by the end of this school year.
Professional Example Video
Student Example Shadow Puppet Theater by Rotella Interdistrict Magnet School
- Worlds of Shadow Teaching with Shadow Puppetry by David Wisniewski and Donna Wisniewski Shadow Puppets & Shadow Play by David Currell
- Four Dragons Script 1
- Four Dragons Script 2
- Four Dragons Script 3
- Four Dragons Script 4
- Four Dragons Script 5
- Four Dragons Script 6
- Four Dragons Script 7
- Four Dragons Script 8
- Four Dragons Script 9
Production & Puppets Materials Used
- Skewers or dowels
- Paper fasteners
- Masking or scotch tape
- X-acto knife with extra blades
- Black Cardstock/Oaktag
- Craft Straws (to connect dowels to puppet)
- Craft Hair
- Light Source - Overhead Projector (s) * Bulbs
- Special Effects – various materials depending on effect(s) Refer to the book Worlds of Shadow Teaching with Shadow Puppetry.
The following is a guest post written by April Millian, a high school mathematics teacher in collaboration with Lisette Morel, a high school art teacher. April and Lisette teach at New Milford High School in New Milford, New Jersey.
As a child I loved art class and excelled at mathematics, often creating artwork with a definite geometric flair. However, it wasn’t until college that I developed a real appreciation for the connections between these two subjects. I was fortunate to spend a January term (a three-week class) in Greece for a Classics course studying of Greek art and architecture. Along with our two Classics professors, a math professor joined us. My initial thought was that it’s crazy to have a math professor on this trip. I mean, what was he going to teach us in Greece? I was standing in front of the Parthenon listening to my professor discuss the Golden Ratio and how it applied, not only to the ancient structure in front of us, but to countless other works of art. That is how my love of mathematics and its significance in art was born.
Fast-forward 13 years I, Miss Millian, am now fortunate to be teaching in a school that is technology-oriented with a fantastic art teacher, Ms. Morel, who shares my interest in relating our two subjects. I was teaching linear perspective to my geometry students when I realized what a great topic it would make for a cross-curricular activity. Ms. Morel and I began to develop an idea for a video scavenger hunt at The Metropolitan Museum of Art that would combine the art with the mathematics behind it.
Teacher and Student Preparation:
Our objective for this interdisciplinary lesson was simply to introduce our students to and have them recognize and apply the relationship that art and math share. It is crucial to establish and maintain real-life connections in education. This connection brings relevance to the subject matter and to our students’ lives.
To prepare students for the interdisciplinary lesson plan I, Ms. Morel, introduced my drawing students and Miss Millian’s Geometry class to western and non-western viewpoints, such as Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Asian and their applications to visually documenting real life. Afterwards we discussed the Renaissance and linear perspective and how it was utilized by the architects and later by painters. For a real life experience I had our students step out into our hallways and view a one-point perspective. We also looked at photographs of homes and streets where students had to point out a one point, two point, high, low or normal vanishing points. While in Miss Millan’s Geometry class I used a document camera which I found to be extremely helpful in my demonstration and presentation to a large class. Our lesson culminated with a technology, art and math scavenger hunt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
To create this scavenger hunt, we started off by visiting the museum ourselves to get acquainted with the layout and decide which pieces would be included in our scavenger hunt. We also took pictures of each work of art. Then the real work began. We used iMovie to create a video that would take our students throughout history on a search for linear perspective (or sometimes the lack of it) in art. The students were armed with an iPod Nano for each group of two, and a question sheet that they needed to answer. The clues were recorded on the iPods by Ms. Morel and myself. They were also given visual clues, such as a cropped part of a painting, to help them find the correct work of art. To add a bit of challenge to the adventure, the first team to complete the scavenger hunt with the most correct answers received a prize of two prints we had purchased at the museum gift shop. Upon returning from our quest, the students created their own linear perspective drawings and completed an online survey.
It was so amazing to watch our students scamper through the museum, intent on finding these works of art. The students enjoyed the activity and found using the iPods more engaging than just reading off of a sheet of paper. What made this scavenger hunt so fascinating was that it brought to life a true connection between classroom learning and real life experience for our students.
Below you can view The Met Scavenger Hunt created by Miss Millian and Ms. Morel.
(Having trouble viewing this video. Try this link.)
Preview Scavenger Hunt Worksheet by clicking on the image below.
April Millian is a high school mathematics teacher in New Milford, New Jersey. She enjoys traveling and coaching the school’s Varsity Bowling team.
Lisette Morel is a teaching artist-mom, working with her students in a variety of art disciplines while maintaining an active art career.