Shadow Puppetry

Scripture: Joshua 10-11, 18

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will learn the story of when God made the sun and moon stop so that Israel could win the war.
  • Students will learn how to plan and create a shadow puppet show.

Guiding Question:

  • How can we use different resources such as light and shadows to tell a Bible story in a new a new and interesting way?

Materials: a dark room and thin white paper or other translucent material to act as a screen (preferred) OR a dark room and white wall/board and bright lamp to cast shadows in front of OR outdoor sunshine (if neither are available due to weather or location, this activity can be done with stick puppets), heavy paper such as cardstock, scissors, glue, craft sticks, pre-made figurines for teacher’s example story-telling
Puppet Characters: Joshua, Israelites, Amorites, Sun, Moon

Note: Typical shadow puppetry is done with a translucent screen. The puppeteer sits behind the screen covered by an opaque object/curtain. Then puppeteers raise their arms above them to animate their puppets behind the screen. More information can be found online.

Use a short simple, shadow puppet show to review the story of God causing the sun to stand still so that Israel could be victorious. Explain to students that when using puppets there is more than one way that they can chose to show their story. One way is to use the puppets to show a lot of animation and characters to act out the story. The other option is to use the puppets as symbols and simply show each one as the story-teller explains what happens. The teacher can chose either method for the demonstration. You may also choose to tell more of the story from Joshua 10-11, 18.
Characters: Joshua, Israelites, Amorites, Sun, Moon

Show Israel being led by Joshua and the Amorites running away from them. Show the sun rising and the moon setting. Then show the sun standing still and the moon standing still as the Israelites catch up to them and have the Amorites disappear from the scene. (Obviously get the point across of God’s intercession in nature and guidance of Israel and do not dwell on the violence.) Israel victoriously cheers and returns to other side of “stage”. Narrate using animated voice inflection as you use puppets.

Students can then make their own puppet show. There are different modifications for this depending on the students’ level and your prep-team’s time:

To save time or if working with students who require more direction, you may provide pre-done puppets and include silhouettes such as king, donkey, sheep, group of people/Israelites, additional group of people, boy, girl, woman, man, etc. Students can decide on a Bible story they are familiar with to re-tell.

Another way to organize the activity is to depending on students’ level and Bible knowledge is to provide certain stories/puppets for them to choose from. Place a story and the required puppets in a pre-organized bag so students can grab one and immediately begin practicing their show. Make sure to label each bag with the story’s name and the characters it contains. Use stories that students already know.

Another option is to simply have them retell the story that you modeled at the beginning of the activity so that they remember it better.

When teaching the lesson, emphasize the importance of fluency and tone inflection for the story-teller. Also emphasize how they can animate their puppets even though they do not move mouths and appendages. Explain how using motion with stick puppets can be done.

Additional Questions:

  • Why was it helpful for God to make the sun stand still?
  • How is practicing a shadow puppet show different than a regular puppet show? How is puppetry different than other forms of storytelling?
  • What form of storytelling do you think is easiest and why?

Supplemental Activities:

  • Have students work in groups of 2-4 to create their own shadow puppet show. Have them follow these steps:
    1. Choose a simple Bible story
    2. Write a list of characters and/or symbols
    3. Write a verbal script where the story teller is talking
    4. Write an action script explaining what each puppet will do as the story teller talks
    5. Assign student roles: story teller and each puppet character/symbol
    6. Create puppets
    7. Practice show
    When creating puppets: Remind students that they are only making an outline and so they cannot draw details in the middle. They must consider how their audience will view their shadow based on this outline. Is it recognizable?
  • Students can practice and plan a puppet show for their church and/or parents. Allow them plenty of time to practice, be reviewed by teachers, and receive constructive feedback so that they can edit their show.