Grade Level
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8


30 minutes


Social Studies

  • Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.


Shadow Puppet
Social awareness




Lesson for Download

Lesson Handout


Students work collaboratively to create and write a shadow play, and design their puppets and props. While working together on this engaging storytelling activity, students demonstrate social and emotional skills such as self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, social awareness, and relationship skills. Break a leg! 


Thematic Questions:

  • How can we work collaboratively to use light and found objects to tell a story?
  • How might we showcase our school’s values and character traits using shadow puppets and storytelling?
  • How can storytelling allow us to better understand ourselves and others?


ISTE Standards for Students 
  1. Creative Communicator– Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.


  • 1x – Corrugated Cardboard (1/8″) 
  • Wax paper, cloth, or paper for shadow screen
  • Tape
  • Materials for customizing the Shadow Puppet Theater (e.g., markers, stickers, pens, or paint)
  • Popsicle sticks, paper, cardboard and other materials for props and puppets
  • Flashlights or other light sources

Catalog Designs

Shadow Puppet Theater


Lesson Outline:

Get Ready:

  1. Have students read through the activity details to familiarize themselves with the steps to complete the activity. 
  2. Students should gather all of the materials needed to print, assemble, and customize each Shadow Puppet Theater. 
  3. Consider exploring ideas and learning more about shadow puppets from Wonderopolis article, What Are Shadow Puppets?

Production Time:

Estimated times are for the Shadow Puppet Theater only and will be different if printing additional props or puppets. Print – 25 minutes Assemble – 5 minutes

Lesson Instructions

Section 1 – Create:

Have students… 

  1. Plan for printing the Shadow Puppet Theater by gathering all of the materials and reviewing the design in the Glowforge app. 
  2. Create each theater by following the steps of the Shadow Puppet Theater design project to print and assemble its parts. Use tape to attach their screen to the theater design.
  3. Test their theaters. How well do the pieces fit together? Is there anything that needs to change to make them work better? How well does the screen permit light to come through?

Section 2 – Use:

Have small groups… 

  1. Use flashlights and wax paper to explore how light travels through translucent materials. Practice making simple shapes or characters using their hands or found objects. Observe how their figures change based on the light’s angle, intensity, and source.
  2. Collaboratively plan and write a shadow play. Use the Shadow Puppet Theater handout to think through the important aspects of the story and capture their notes.
    • First, as a class, brainstorm positive social and emotional skills on a whiteboard or chart paper. Each group selects one skill for their play to focus on.
    • Next, think about the plot, or what will happen in the beginning, middle, and end of the play.
    • Then, determine the characters and their physical and personality traits.
    • Finally, consider where the story will take place and determine the perfect setting.
  3. Use paper, scissors, popsicle sticks, glue, and other art supplies to make their puppets and props. Also, consider how to create custom shadow puppet characters and props by using the Glowforge app, found objects, and even their hands.
  4. Practice and perform their shadow puppet story for their classmates.

Reflection Questions:

Help students consider…

  • How might creating a shadow puppet story help you better understand how people interact with each other?
  • How did my group collaborate and communicate with each other while preparing our story and shadow puppet play?
  • How could our shadow puppet experience demonstrate what we know about light?

Pro Tips:

  • Consider customizing this project using the Glowforge app by creating characters or objects for your shadow puppet show. The Glowforge Trace tool is an excellent way to incorporate student artwork in the theater itself or to enhance the story.
  • If creating prototypes prior to doing final prints, use cardboard for test prints. Just remember that if the design uses joinery such as slots or finger joints, these may need to be adjusted to suit the prototyping materials.
  • Record the shadow plays and add them to a class website or video sharing site like Flipgrid. Using this format, families can watch the performances and groups can give each other feedback. 


  • How could storytelling formats like shadow plays be used to demonstrate knowledge of classroom content? Encourage students to use shadow puppets as a way to represent their knowledge construction or as a reflection of their learning.
  • Beyond using the theater for shadow puppets, how else might we use this design in the classroom or around the school? Showcase your digital storytelling by pairing the Shadow Puppet Theater with a tablet. Remove the screen from the theater and consider using a Flexible, Flat-Pack Tablet Stand to prop up your tablet’s screen.
  • What customizations could you make to the Shadow Puppet Theater design to represent your school community? Use the Glowforge app to incorporate social and emotional skills that your school community values. Add icons and drawings to the design using the image library and Trace tool.

Meet Glowforge

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