Shadown Puppets in Education

shadow puppetsBy Hedgehog83 (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 or CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Transparency in education is vital.  With integration of new technologies in the classroom: SmartBoards, iPads, mobile devices and so forth, the old transparencies and overhead projectors are becoming obsolete.  While embracing new technologies and innovation of new learning platforms, extinction of these adaptive learning resources seems to forecast the demise of skills and art forms that were once rampant throughout the education system.  What resources that you know of, are becoming obsolete?  What skills or art forms do you see fading into the shadows of 21st Century skills?  What does this mean for the skills that are becoming extinct and for those people who are masters of those skills?  Is there an ability you have that is vanishing and what does that mean to you? What does the demise of transparencies and overhead projectors mean?   (Please share your thoughts in the comments section)

Cascading through time, a recent realization captivated my attention and my thoughts.  The pondering of my mind reflected on an art in the educational setting that facilitates imagination, teaches creativity, and  enamored the audience.  Through generations this art has enraged teachers and entertained them.  Knowing too well that their students should not catch on to their hysteria and amusement to this art form, with a quiet laugh and strict flat-toned expression on their faces, teachers have hushed and brushed away their keen excitement and sheer entertainment for this work. We all have done this as teachers.  It is part of being a professional in our fields.

So, what is the object that so delights us with playful fascination, yet enrages our disposition.  It is…shadow puppets.  You know, the shadow puppets children love to make with their hands with the light of the overhead projector shining on the classroom movie screen.  The same shadow puppets that have amused all of us, yet as teachers we don’t let students become aware of our amusement, so we keep straight-faced to keep classroom control.  We hide any sign of entertainment of such acts by our students.

Here are some shadow puppets.  You will find this video delightful and amusing, as I have!

[youtube]YouTube video “Greatest Shadow Puppets Ever” by screen name BigmouthAussie

With implementation of innovative technologies, SmartBoards, iPad, etc. overhead projectors are becoming less needed and are quickly fading away from the classroom environment.  Adoption of new instructional devices and platforms is transforming the learning environment and setting.  This means wonderful new interactive learning experiences for our students, which I love and fully embrace.  However, with this change comes the loss of old adaptive learning devices such as overhead projector.  There are many other tools that are fading into the shadows as well.

Shadow puppets are a child’s playful art form.  They involve imagination, creativity, focus, skill, integration, collaboration, dexterity, and a playful spirit.   Although shadow puppets have been a focus of negativity by many educators, reality is, it is an art that children can learn from.  With the loss of overhead projectors, this means the loss of students’ ability to learn from shadow puppets.  It means the loss of their silly actions…trying to put their hands up high into the screen’s light pathway to make shadow puppets on the classroom movie screen to entertain the other students.  Indeed, this may make many teachers feel relieved to not have to worry about student’s actions and trying to gain classroom control as a result of such actions.  Being transparent though, with the loss of overhead projectors, means the loss of a teachable, interactive and playful art form.

Check out this imaginative video.  This will leave your head spinning with ideas on how you could blend shadow puppets into lessons.  Incorporating 21st Century skills, while creating shadow puppet lessons would be fabulous.  Skills such as video, editing, sound, lighting, graphics, etc. could be integrated while facilitating lessons that teach shadow puppetry.

[youtube]YouTube video”Hand Shadows” by screen name roselouisewood

I can imagine shadow puppets being around for centuries; children creating shadow puppets in the faint candlelight of school houses or in their homes.  Or, I can imagine children doing it through the light of the sun gleaming through the windows.   I can also imagine, once overhead projectors became adopted into the educational setting, children beginning to make shadow puppets in the light of the overhead projector.

As SmartBoards have become the wave of the 21st Century, the loss of shadow puppets is occurring.  I never stopped to think about this until my husband recently had shone a flashlight on the wall of our home and used his hand to make a shadow puppet to entertain our child.  This moment caught my attention and caused me to think.  It was the realization that lead me to write this blog post.

Will shadow puppets be lost forever in the educational setting?  What does this mean to you?  What can we do to integrate shadow puppets into our lessons using flashlights to foster the imagination and skills that this art form teaches?  How can we integrate and teach shadow puppets into our lessons so that it is not lost?  Please share your stories and thoughts…

Here are some resources I found on learning how to integrate and do shadow puppetry.  We could use these in our classrooms to create shadow puppetry puppet plays.

By screen name Jdesign1’s, retrieved from “shadow puppets“

Has this too left you with a sense of nostalgia?  Has it too left you thinking of the wonders and the possibilities?

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Beth Crumpler Beth Crumpler is the founder of adaptivelearnin. Beth is an educator who is passionate about platforms for adaptive learning and curriculum design. She earned her B.A. in music education from Southeastern University, M.S. in TESOL from Shenandoah University, and 42 graduate-level credits from several universities in California. Beth is an experienced teacher, curriculum writer, blogger, and elearning course developer in the fields of ESL and music education. She has written learning content for several major educational companies/institutions. Her strongest asset is in using needs analysis and thinking creatively to develop adaptive educational materials both through kinesthetic hands-on and technological platforms to meet the diverse learning needs of students regardless of age, learning need and content area. Beth has taught students of many linguistic, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds. She loves her work, loves to bring positive humor to it whenever possible, and is seriously dedicated to the profession. Beth's experiences teaching for numerous content areas, diverse populations, and a wide range of age groups is what propelled her with the vision to create adaptivelearnin. Her vision has been to support educators in finding resources which support learning through modified and targeted experiences so that all students receive individualized learning to facilitate their educational growth needs. Adaptivelearnin is a place where educators can find digital and hands-on adaptive learning resources for planning and instructional purposes. Beth does freelance curriculum writing, article writing/blogging, and online course development. For inquires about hiring Beth for work, please email her at Go to to check out published articles Beth has written. Opinions are her own and are not those of her employer, or previous employers.