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The Mechanical Arm
Mind Map Overview of Unit
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By the end of this unit, students will be able to:
Identify factors which might affect the size and position of the shadow of an object.
Describe the properties of a shadow including intensity and position of the light source and the distances and angles between the light, object, and surface.
Demonstrate construction techniques of measuring, cutting, and making pivot points.
Record data using online resource
Demonstrate grade-level proficiency in writing to express personal ideas by; following a plan in which ideas are logically ordered; directing writing to the intended audience; language purposefully, and using the stages of the writing process: prewriting, drafting, revising, and proofreading.
Utilize effective teamwork and project management skills
Tri-fold presentation foam board- cut to desired size.
Rice paper or interfacing material for the screen.
An LCD projector
Patterns for basic puppet
Masking and plastic tape
Sewing needles; heavy thread.
Brass paper fasteners
Exacto knives & Scissors
Bamboo skewers or dowel rods Rigid wire
Content - Introduction to Shadow Puppetry
Learners view Shadow Puppetry through the information presented at:
Making the Screen
Since you will be using an LCD projector, measure a 3:4 ratio such as 18” x 24”. Cut the cardboard out from the middle of the frame, using a utility knife, graphic artist's blade, or scissors. Next, draw lines on the sides of the box as shown in Figure 2. Use a knife or scissors to cut along the lines to remove the top, front, and bottom sides of the box. (You now have a theater frame with "wings!")
Find a piece of white cloth - like a piece of an old sheet- or a piece of while butcher block paper -big enough to cover the opening in the frame. Use masking tape or duct tape to fasten the corners of the cloth over the back of the frame opening (Figure 3). When the corners are tight and there are no wrinkles, put tape along all the edges. (It's important to keep the screen tight and wrinkle-free!)
Set your screen up on a table edge as shown in Figure 4.
Learners can also make smaller, personalized screens - see -
Shadow Puppetry Activity 1
Learners can begin with a simple form of shadow puppetry which can be found at
Explain to learners that they are to perform a simple shadow puppet show with a partner using the following guidelines:
You are each to make a simple puppet using a basic shape by taping a shape of his or his choice onto a flexi-straw.
The puppets must be flat on the screen at all times.
You are not stand in the way of the light source.
Entries and Exits should be smooth and with purpose- not just falling on and off screen.
Some action should be devised to incorporate all areas of the screen –not just walking along the bottom.
You should try to create some interaction between puppets on the screen.
Each pair performs their show – with feedback from the audience following the performance.
Shadow Puppet - Activity 2
Learners are asked to make puppets with pivot points thinking robots as the theme.
Create a shadow puppet out of tag board, x-ray film, or other materials. Use tracing paper, carbon paper, or create an overhead transparency of template and trace outline projected onto tag board taped to a wall. The puppet can also be made with stationary legs.
Cut out puppet parts.
Make cuts and perforations in body with paper punches or exacto knives. Protect the table a piece of corrugated cardboard. Holes in body and clothing are for decoration as well as to allow light to show through the parts to highlight details, such as a mouth or bangles and to create interesting shadow patterns. Always have adult supervision while working with sharp tools.
Paint or color the puppet parts on both sides so puppets can switch directions during performance. If using tag board, puppets will be more durable if laminated. Another option is to shellac. Always test first to insure that colors don’t run.
Punch holes in the shoulders arms, legs, skirt, head, and headdress as marked.
Assemble by attaching paper fasteners through the holes at the joints. Leave fasteners loose enough to allow the joints to move freely.
Fasten straight sticks, rods or wire to puppet’s hand and body by sewing on with heavy thread, string, or tape. Run a central rod or wire from the head down the body and through one leg for at least six inches below foot to serve as a handle.
for more information.
Writing and Performing the Story
Learners will be shown how to create a storyboard -
Using a separate page for each scene have children list the following for each scene
puppets to be used
music, special effect techniques
Learners can create their Storyboard online at
Learners can sketch the scene and pictures of the puppets to be created on each page.
Place the pages in order on a poster board so that the organization of the piece is visible to everyone during the creation of the piece.
Students will develop and perform a complete shadow puppet show with script, puppets and background.
With students in groups of four, inform them that each group must create a short, five-minute shadow play using puppets created by each member which will culminate in a performance. The theme is to be based on a theme of this unit – “How Robots Can Help Humans.”
Tell students that their plays should have a beginning, middle, and end; and that they need to storyboard it. For some basics tips to get your students started, see the ARTSEDGE How-to,
The Basics of Storytelling
The Shadow Puppet shows will be video-taped using a mobile device. Learners not performing the show will take turns recording. A class YouTube Channel will be set up to post the Shadow Puppet Shows. See
on how to set up a Youtube Channel.
Physical Limitations – inability to cut and construct the puppets
Students can create their own shadow puppet show with the use of simple keyboard movements. This can be found by linking into “The Puppet Studio” section where the student can choose a background, choose their puppets, select puppet movements, and include background information.
Dysgraphia and written language difficulties connected to the storyboarding.
Students can sketch out the storyboard scene and record the dialogue and setting details into a recorder.
Gifted students can be given the challenge to create an animated shadow puppet using photoshop
Use of cues, visuals, and sign language
The shadow puppet show lends itself to the visually impaired! The dialogue-script can be done in sign language to the side of the puppet stage.
Assessment - Grading Rubric
The Shadow Puppet Rubric (made with Rubistar) will be used for both giving feedback and the final assessment.
Prior to performing the show for the younger students, a “dress rehearsal” will be conducted. The students’ peers will use the rubric, From Puppets to Robots - Shadow Puppet Show, to give feedback.
During the final performance, the teacher will use this same rubric for assessment purposes
From Puppets to Robots. pdf.pdf
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