Shadow Puppets for Story Telling

Telling stories in the newly made puppets!

The shadow puppet activity (initially suggested by Sandy Rudd, theatre director in Namibia) has proved wildly successful. For this activity the children make their own puppets using templates created by Emily Hallinan (CBN friend and archaeologist), sometimes even editing the templates with their own creativity. They then masterfully enact stories using the puppets, stories often with a San origin or theme.

Thrilling to observe, each group of children interprets the activity differently, sometimes adding to the puppets, sometimes adding sound effects or vocals to the story, or even additions to the story! Sometimes very carefully enacting the particular movements required by the characters, sometimes less so! Everything is enacted with enjoyment. There are inevitably often children who are more interested in narrating the story (we had some fabulous voice changes from those who did), and some just don’t want to do their own cutting of the puppet shapes, but everyone can find their own niche in this activity.

From a facilitation point of view, the fantastic benefits of this activity are that it can be adapted to different levels of ability as well as to different group sizes. Children who are not so adept with a pencil or scissors can be given much simpler creatures and characters to make (or just piece together pre-cut pieces), those not so skilled at listening and moving the puppets accordingly can have parts that require less concentration, or be the narrators, and smaller groups can have stories that involve fewer characters.

Our use of this activity so far included mainly stories that include large numbers of animals being greeted or asked questions/adding to the story; ie. A repetitive and or cumulative style of story. This is particularly useful when you have random group sizes as you can easily insert extra animals and also swap in and out different animals depending on what puppets the children want to make. With older groups more complex stories could be used and there is also potential to include music with different characters having different sounds, you can also include hand shadows if there aren’t enough puppets (or bushes and trees!).

We have had such fun with this activity and are looking forward to developing it further. Here is some footage of the three plays staged in Clanwilliam.

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