Puppets and Social Studies

I was thrilled to be able to return this month to Tuckahoe Elementary, where I used to teach full time, to do a three session arts residency with the 5th grade. Their social studies curriculum covers various world cultures, and I collaborated with their classroom, library and art teachers to give the students the opportunity to delve more deeply into Ancient Egyptian society through research, writing and puppetry.

A puppet plan waiting to be turned into the costume using fabric, markers and glue.

A  plan waiting to be turned into a puppet   costume using fabric, markers and glue.

Each student was assigned a particular Ancient Egyptian social group and  spent time in the library researching the work, lifestyle, dress and family structure of that group. I then led each class through the steps of creating a puppet character and writing a monologue for them to speak, focusing on the hopes and dreams of their particular person. Some students chose to go dramatic, with generals plotting to kill the pharaoh. Others wrote about characters wishing to move up in status or social group. The students demonstrated their knowledge about the time period and their social group through the details they included in their writing.

Completed puppets, waiting for the big performance.

Completed puppets, waiting for the big performance.

In art class, each student created a ceramic head for their puppet, which was fired and decorated. In social studies class with me, they designed and then built a basic rod puppet structure of dowels and a costume of fabric. Again, students were expected to use their research to create a costume and if possible, props for their particular puppet character. When the puppets were all assembled, the students each performed their puppet monologue for the group. They did a wonderful job! Among the comments and feedback we got from the students were “I liked getting to decide how my character reacted to things,” “I liked learning more about all the different social groups by watching everyone” and “I liked making the head and costume of my puppet!” proving that the arts are the perfect way to build a love of learning in students of all ages.  If you would like us to bring this or a similar workshop to your classroom, please email us at witsendpuppets@gmail.com.

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