Storytelling with Shadow Puppets - Class 2 of 3

Local Artist Darrin Crow

Darrin Crow tells imaginative, engaging stories that keep audiences on the edge of their seats and stick with them long after the tale ends.  He introduces students to the power of storytelling at the Arts Academy with classes in storytelling, puppetry, and improvisation. Catch up with Darrin on his website or YouTube Channel.

Class 2 of 3

There are three classes in this series that will take you through the steps needed to create a shadow puppet performance for your family. In our first class we saw the Three Billy Goats Gruff and thought about other ways to tell the story. We also learned how to build our shadow puppet screen. Today we will see a new telling of the same story, brainstorm characters for our stories, and learn how to make shadow puppets with things from around the house!

Shadow Puppet Building: 

Things from around your house can make great shadow puppets! The things you use to create characters are only limited by your imagination. Try several different kinds of things. 

  • Do toys from your room cast a different kind of shadow than things from the kitchen? 
  • Do clear, or transparent things make interesting shadows?
  • You can also add things to your objects with some tape. Feathers, paper cut outs, and colored plastic can totally transform things.
  • How does the placement of your object change its shadow? 
  • Does the shadow change when you move the object closer to the screen?
    • For really crisp, clear shadows you want your object as close to the screen  as possible.
    • As you move it back, it will become softer and fuzzier.


Story Creation: 

Let’s brainstorm on what other things could be our main characters? How would those characters talk? What will they look like? What will they need that might send them “over the bridge”?

  • As you look at the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, what ways could you tell the story?
  • You could tell the story just as it is and have a lot of fun with the goats and the ogre.
  • How would the story change if the Ogre were telling it? What does he think of the goats?
  • You could also change the story, so it is about a totally different set of characters.
Telling your tale:

Now it's time to give it a try!  Remember to begin your performance with the Storyteller's Pledge. You can do this as a call-and-response to get your audience engaged! Have fun!

Additional resources:

For older students, maybe older siblings, here is a deep dive on the Science of Shadow Puppets from the Kennedy Center,

For the artist in your family, here is a great resource on drawing characters from shadows.

Additional shadow puppet classes can be found here:

Share your work and stay connected!

We are curious to see your project! Upload photos in the comment section below. If you have trouble, or want to share a short video, email us at Leave your school name in the comment box and we will share images with your school!

We want to stay connected to our creative students when we get back to the new normal. While you are here, learn more about the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy. While we don't have much taking place in real space/time during the pandemic, we will get back to our regular live and in-person classes. When we do, we'd love to have you as a member!

Loading Conversation