Shadow Puppets


Making the Puppet

Step 1


Create a storyboard (see storyboarding exercise in art making strategies). Make a list of characters and props needed for each
scene, including any background sets or scenery. For example, if your story takes place in Greek times, what did it look like in
ancient Greece? Break into groups of four or five to work on smaller scenes within a larger story or each small group can create their own story. Smaller sub plots within a larger play can be a very useful to direct younger children.

Step 2

Cut manila folders in half, along the fold.

Step 3

On the half of the folder draw the outline of a puppet or prop. If you are going to create moving parts draw these separately on another folder. For large puppets or props/ backdrops use cardboard.

Step 4

Cut out paper with scissors for younger children, xacto knives for older kids. Fifth grade is a good grade level to introduce the
xacto knife.

Step 5

Demonstrate how to hold an xacto knife.

Follow these rules for saftey:
• Put a piece of cardboard under what you are cutting to protect surfaces.
• Tape manila folder to cutting surface.
• Students should hold the knife like they are holding a pencil.
• Do not put finger on the blade.
• Cut away from your fingers.
• Focus on what you are cutting.

Step 5

Attach any moving parts (eyes that open or close, joints that move, tentacles, etc.) with brass fasterners,


Step 6

After puppet is cut out glue or tape puppet to bamboo shishkabob skewers and attach a separate rod to the part.

operating the puppet


Move your puppet slowly. You need to give
your audience time to see the image.


Keep your puppets moving at all times.


Avoid waving your puppet like a flag, hitting puppets together, or beating the screen with the puppet. The image should lay flat against the screen and move gracefully and intentionally.


Think about entrances and exits. Think about transformation (puppets hiding behind other puppets).

Making the shadow screen

Step 1

Stretch cotton sheet tightly across a frame and secure it with either clamps, staples or strong tape.

Step 2

A screen can consist of any frame. A wooden picture frame, a stand up coat rack frame would work. Secure the screen to a table
or the floor so it won’t get knocked over as the children use the stage. The most important factor in building a screen is to
make the screen (white sheet) as taut as possible. You can also use an overhead projector to project puppets onto a screen.

Art Making

Manila folder
X-acto knife or scissors
Clean white cotton sheet or muslin or
other white fabric
Large wooden picture frame
(18” x 20” or larger)
Light source (lamp, slide projector, and
overhead projectors work well)
Clamps/Strong tape/Stapler
(to hold sheet taut)