Teacher Lesson Plan


Shadow Puppet Based Lesson Plan

A dragon shadow puppet snorting 'Rrrr!'

This lesson plan works best with kids who can cut with scissors and share tools. Recommended for students grade 3-6. To use the shadow puppets with a writing or performing activity please see the suggestions at the end of this lesson plan. Read all directions carefully and adjust the lesson to suit your students.


Each student creates a working shadow puppet

Grading focus

Following directions, originality, functionality

Abstract lessons taught

  1. Learning good design skills
  2. Practicing tolerance through sharing and interaction
  3. The satisfaction of building your own idea

Time frame

2-3 40- minute class periods


See resources for suggestions on finding some items.

  • sketch paper
  • pencils
  • colored pencils
  • black poster-board, cut into 8x10 sheets
  • brass fasteners
  • bamboo skewers- with the tips snipped off!
  • scissors
  • hole punchers (2-4)
  • low temp hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • cardboard to protect the table surface from hot glue
  • examples of shadow puppets!
  • large envelopes to hold student's puppet parts between classes
  • a copy of the grading rubric for each student
  • overhead projector to make shadows, or use the window shade

Room set up

Each student should have sketch paper, pencil, scissors and colored pencils at his or her desk. Keep the poster-board, hole punchers, brass fasteners, glue gun and bamboo skewers on the teacher's desk so you can supervise them when they are handed out. Draw the steps to follow on the blackboard, you can use the images in this lesson as a guide.

Teaching Timeline

First Class
Introduce the lesson, brainstorm puppet ideas, draw puppet ideas
Second Class
Review main points, draw final idea as puppet parts, have the parts drawing approved by the teacher. Draw parts on black poster-board and begin cutting.
Third Class
Finish cutting, assemble parts into puppet, attach sticks. Try puppets out with games and activities.

First class

  • Introduction

    Shadow puppets have a rich history in many cultures but the most well known come from Indonesia. Before writing was invented people recorded their history orally through story telling. In ancient Indonesia people added puppets to help tell the stories, and so each village's storyteller was known as a Puppet Master. When the Puppet Master put on a show the whole village would come to watch. Men and women would sit in separate groups with the Puppet Master's screen between them. The men would sit on the Puppet Master's side of the screen, watching him perform and sometimes adding music. The women and children would sit on the other side of the screen, watching the shadows made by the puppets. The Puppet Master used his hands and even his feet to make the puppets move and add noise effects. A bowl of fire hung above his head to project the shadows onto the screen.

    Enrichment: Find Indonesia on a globe, what countries are there? Find pictures of Indonesian shadow puppets on the internet, listen to music from Indonesia.

    For our shadow puppets we are going to use black poster-board. The first thing we need to do is think of what kind of puppet we want to make. You can make an animal or a person or even an object into a shadow puppet, but you have to think of how it will move. (show examples of shadow puppets) For example, if you want to make a shadow puppet of your teacher with a moving arm ---(demonstrate a moving arm) the body would be on one stick and the arm would be on another stick so the arm can move up and down.

  • A drawing of a dragon

    Here is an idea for a dragon

    Think of 2 or 3 ideas that could be puppets and choose the best one. Then draw your idea nice and big on a scrap piece of paper. These drawings don't have to be perfect! Don't even bother to erase if you make a mistake. We just want to see the idea.

  • A dragon, with pivot joints drawn in

    The dragon with Xs drawn in for the joints and circles to show the overlapping portions of the puppet pieces.

    Now I must decide how the dragon will move. I think I will make joints above the legs so the front and back can move, and it will look like he is jumping. On my drawing I put red "X"s for the joints. The head part, the belly part, and the tail part will overlap.

  • The dragon, broken into idividual pieces

    The dragon, broken into idividual pieces. Each piece includes its overlapping portion.

    Now I need to draw the overlapping parts separately on a new piece of paper. Remember to draw the parts big enough.

    Now I have a good design and I am ready for black poster-board. Getting students to this point may be the end of the first class. Students should have their drawings approved by you before they are allowed to start on the black poster-board. To see if the students comprehend the lesson, ask them how they see their puppet moving. Students may need help understanding how parts will overlap and what size the parts need to be.

Second class

  • The dragon parts, drawn on black poster-board

    Review the main ideas of the lesson. (Draw an idea for a puppet, re-draw the puppet with the moving parts separate, have the drawings approved by you) Now show the next step--using the black poster-board. Using a colored pencil re-draw your puppet parts on the black poster-board. Remember to draw the parts big enough! This will be the back side of the puppet so don't worry if your drawing is not perfect.

  • Cutting out the dragon parts from the black poster-board

    Now cut out the parts, but remember to cut the outside lines! The hole puncher can be used for the "eye" of the puppet.

  • The dragon with all of his pieces cut out
    Punching out the holes in the dragon with a paper punch
    Inserting the brass fasteners through the joint holes

    Once the parts are cut out, come to the teacher's desk to use the hole punchers. The punch should be used to punch out the holes for the joints, then insert the brass fasteners through the holes.

  • Glueing the sticks to the puppet

    Give the puppet to the teacher to glue the sticks on. No students can use the glue gun by themselves!

    Teaching Tip While the sticks are being glued on, students should clean the cut paper bits from their desk area and put their name on the grading rubric.

  • The dragon shadow puppet completed When the sticks are glued on the puppet is ready! Try making shadows by putting the puppets behind the window shade or use an overhead projector to see the shadows on a wall.

Third class

Some students should be able to finish a puppet at the end of the second class, but many will need more time to draw and cut. Use this last class to try some puppet activities while other students are still working.

Some possible activities
  1. Think of some movements that puppets can do, and call them out for the students to try. If you have the overhead projector set up you can choose students to come up and try the actions on the screen. For example try the words: mosey, swim, skip, shake, fall asleep, hover, jump in place, slither, dance, spin, creep, laugh, or flutter.
  2. Play "Simon Says" with the puppets. Choose a student to lead with his or her puppet. Puppets that get "out" have to fall asleep on their desk.
  3. For a quick performance, try printing off a list of knock-knock jokes from a kid's internet joke site. Cut the list into strips, fold the strips and put them in a hat. Students pair up and draw 4 jokes from the hat. Have the pairs practice, then have them perform the jokes in front of the class using the puppets on the overhead. Have the students give names to their puppets for the comedy routine, and add a noisemaker for the laugh track.

Shadow puppets also provide a great opportunity to get kids to write. Once you have some puppets, have students form groups and make shows. Students can write scripts for the shows together, or you can assign parts of the script to each student and give a length requirement. For a group with 3 students (and 3 puppet characters) have one student write the beginning, another student write the middle, another write the end. Each part should include all 3 puppet characters. The groups can then perform for the rest of the class.

You can also build a shadow puppet lesson around a book or story the class is reading. If you are reading Charlotte's Web, for example, you can have the students make different characters from the book and use them to act out sections of the story.


Bamboo skewers can be found in many grocery stores and usually come in 2 sizes. Brass fasteners can be found at office supply stores, the 1" size works best and can be ordered through Office Max's online store. Low-temp glue guns and glue are available at most fabric or hobby supply stores.

Grading Rubric


Did the student follow directions?
1	2	3	4	5	6	7	8	9	10
not at all			mostly				perfectly
Did the student make an original idea?
1	2	3	4	5	6	7	8	9	10
not at all			mostly				perfectly
Was the student helpful and patient in sharing materials, cleaning up, and working with other students?
1	2	3	4	5	6	7	8	9	10
not at all			mostly				perfectly


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