Monday, April 27, 2015

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters First Grade Puppet Show

              Memphis City Schools used to do something called a "Thinkshow." It was a major project each semester that was on display for members of the community to come and view. My second year teaching, I decided to do a puppet show. 
I set the puppet show stage up on my library's bookshelf
              I don't know why I suddenly became obsessed with puppets that year. My husband bought me a monkey puppet for Christmas. I named her Esmé and talked to her like she was real. And after that I've just loved all things involving puppetry.
              So I started out by making these paper bag puppets with the kids to teach them what a puppet is:
Aren't they adorable?

              I have a whole lesson plan involving that which I'll share later.
              Anyway, after that I asked them what kind of puppet they wanted to make. Many were very inventive.
              My school had decided to use the continent of Africa as a topic that year, so we had to pick a country in Africa to make a project about. We picked Zimbabwe, because they have a great storytelling tradition. I actually got pretty obsessed with Zimbabwe, reading all about the history, reading fiction about it, Lessing and another African author. Online I found some Zimbabwe stories. I memorized some of them to retell the kids. I also found lots of great videos of African storytellers and showed them to the kids in lieu of story time.
We did research on African storytellers as we worked on the project

              I also found this amazing video of a Punch and Judy puppet show. The kids couldn't stop laughing at it.

              Then we picked one of the stories to make a show out of. It was the African Cinderella Story, Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters.

After I read this story to them, I let them read it again as much as they liked

              I wrote the script out on a big piece of paper by asking them what I should write. And I assigned characters by letting them draw straws for the parts they wanted.
You can see in the script that Kacee is holding how I have color-coded the parts to make it easier for kids to know when it's their cue

              Next, we had to come up with a name for our puppet show troupe. We came up with several names and voted for the one to use. "Mrs. Vaziri's Best Class Puppet Show" was the winner (although it didn't make a lot of sense to me...). So after that I used a child's drawing of how this should look and painted it onto the cardboard stage I had made.
I made the curtains out of velvet and satin and the scenery from a pillowcase.

              So then we got to work making the puppets and practicing the script.
This kid was carefully making his crown- he was the king

              Practicing the script was very important, because it showed the children how useful being able to read is. One boy, who played Mufaro, would sometimes refuse to read, and I told him we needed him. I think it really helped him to feel needed.

In the video, at the very end, he almost makes his crown fall out by nodding the puppet head so hard! I always laugh at that part

              We recorded the children saying the script into the voice recorder.

This, the reading of the script into the recorder, was the hardest part of the process for some children.

              Then we acted out the script, nodding the puppets' heads to the words they were saying. This was an easier way of doing it than actually saying the words while manipulating the puppets, but it was still very difficult for first graders. 

This is a behind-the-scenes shot of the narrator, the owl, introducing the show

              We went through three or four recordings before we got it right.

Kacee is checking her script to make sure she knows when to come in

              On Thinkshow day, which was March 1, I had set everything up in the hall, with a TV playing our performance, and members of the community came by to see how we had done. It was a great day, and the kids felt so proud of themselves (and they had learned a lot, too).

They were very attentive to my volunteer because they wanted their puppet show to be great

I guess the part the kids enjoyed most was having people come and see their project

Here you can see the hallway filled with people looking at the projects.

She was very excited for her dad to come to see what she had made

My lovely students with their puppets

This "Firebird" was my favorite puppet because it actually moved its wings - it was a marionette

I was very lucky to have a volunteer to help the children make their puppets.

The stars and their puppeteers

These were the "Laughing Trees" of the story, so it's appropriate that they are having fun!

Here's the puppet show!

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