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During the 1998-99 school year I had the opportunity to teach an Enrichment Class offered through the Schoolwide Enrichment Model Program (SEM) at one of my schools. This is a program for the gifted and talented in which all students enrolled in the school participate in classes of their own choosing taught by teachers, parents, support staff and other adult volunteers. The classes are unique in that the Enrichment Teachers are asked to share something they themselves love or of which he or she has special knowledge. These classes are usually offered three times per year and last for three 50 minute sessions. Students look forward to these times and there is great anticipation regarding what classes will be offered.
I chose to offer a Shadow Puppetry Enrichment Class. Nine students signed up for my class. Four fourth graders, two fifth graders, and three sixth graders. During the first session we set about making the puppets out of card stock, markers, brads, straws and staples. Our play was Moon Dragon, a Chinese Shadow Puppet Play with a script and patterns from the book Shadow Puppetry in Color by Louise Cochrane. While students worked on puppets, we read over the script and became familiar with the story. We worked on the puppets for three weeks ( I had seriously underestimated the amount of time construction would take.) Each student had a complete set of puppets he or she could make to keep.
We divided into five teams of two puppeteers each by homeroom and I paired with a sixth grade girl who was the only one from her class. At the end of the three weeks, we had one completed set of puppets and props, but had not yet rehearsed. I asked students what they wanted to do - in order to continue, we would need special permission from each teacher for them to miss whatever would be happening in the classroom in that time slot. They really wanted to continue, so... I talked with all their teachers and secheduled separate times for each team to practice. Teams could choose whether to tape the script or do it live. Four chose the taped option and one chose to perform live. Each team was to perform for their own class during the weekly Library time.
When Performance Week arrived and classes came to the Library, I introduced each team (We had seen a shadow puppet show in the past - students knew the drill: lights out, pause for scene changes, etc.) and turned out the lights and the sat down to enjoy the show. Success! Applause! Raves from teachers and kids! Beaming ear to ear smiles as I asked the student puppeteers to come from behind the screen and take their bows! My sixth grade student partner only needed my presence behind the screen, but performed the entire show herself! And ever since (even this year yet), When can we do it again?
Share the magic...