Our Puppet Shows, Published

Taco Week from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

All 22 of the collaborative puppet shows have now been published at our Puppet Shows of Norris School website. Just a reminder: these are original plays planned out and written collaboratively, with original puppets made by students, and performed behind a puppet theater made by sixth graders about 10 years ago.

The Puppet Show Website

I have to say that for the most part, the stories were pretty cohesive and followed a story arc with protagonists and antagonists and most were able to get a moral or theme into the writing. These are the writing skills that I was going after, plus the exploration of the genre of script writing.

I’ll try to share out individual puppet plays during the week (I had this idea of highlighting specific plays) but one thing that was obvious is that in three of the four classes, there was a taco-themed play. And last year, there were some taco-themed plays. And the year before that, too, if I am not mistaken.

Mucho Taco Day from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

What’s up with the tacos?

So, here are the three taco plays from this year, sprinkled like space throughout this post.

Taco Day from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

Peace (with the cheese and fixings),

Puppets on Display

We’re gearing up for puppet play performances next week, as we invite preschool through second grade classes to our classroom to view the original puppet plays. The snow day we had yesterday messes up my schedule (of course), which is usually to videotape the plays before the performances. But we need today as a full day of rehearsal and tomorrow is a half-day with students (for PD afternoon), and Monday is a holiday. Tuesday and Wednesday are our days of performing. The clock is ticking.

Most groups are doing fine. I think this year’s addition of recording Radio Play versions with audacity worked well because it gave them multiple chances to read through their play before going behind the puppet theater itself.

I love the puppets that they make because the kids go a little crazy with it and that often leads to creative ideas. I took a few pictures the other day and wanted to share them out. Most of the work on the puppets is done with my art teacher colleague, Leslie, and then they finish up in my classroom (which becomes so messy it drives me crazy, but I have to keep my frustration with feathers, felt, string and whatever in check. I know they are in the act of creating, and the room will be cleaned eventually.(

Student Puppets
Student Puppets
Student Puppets

Peace (in the puppetry),

A Few More Puppet Show ‘Elevator Pitches’

Yesterday, I shared out some of the “elevator pitch” summaries my sixth grade students are doing as they summarize the story ideas of their puppet show scripts, now in the process of being written. The original plays will eventually be performed live before younger students in our school (lessons on “audience” and plot design and genre are at the heart of the writing objectives here).

Here are a few more that caught my eye:

Our play is about four friends named Daisy the Elephant, Tiny Tim the penguin, Ruby the Bunny, and Jedidia the Polar Bear. Every year on January 23rd it snows enough that everyone will be able to snowboard and ski. The only problem is Yogi the Bear tries to ruin Mt. Snow by melting it all because he hates skiing and snowboarding from past experience. So far Yogi has failed to complete his plans to ruin melting the snow so nobody can ski and snowboard. This time Yogi finally has a plan to ruin Mt. Snow. To find out what happens next read A Day In Mt. Snow!

Our play is called “Sock Day” and it’s about a girl named Victoria that has a rotten twin brother named Victor. Victor puts crazy glue in her favorite boots and she puts them on to go to the mall and shop for crazy socks for Sock Day at school tomorrow. They have to find a way to take her boots off by the next day. They put jelly in her boots and they come off.

The name of our play is Mucho Taco Day. It is about a monster that eats all the food for the Tacos. Danielle and Kristine have to figure out a way to get the Tacos out of his stomach by pressing the open button on the back of his ear. Once they safely get it, they chase the monster off the edge of the mountain forever and everyone has a great Taco Day.

It was a important day in Monopoly Land (monopoly game board). The ship is trying to get to the boardwalk but the Thimble, car and Boston Terrier are trying to show the Ship a lesson of helping each other and trying to get to the boardwalk as well . In that time they go through some trouble with the Ship and the Jail guard. In the end, they all stay in a hotel at the boardwalk.

This play is about Bright Light Day where everybody hangs up lights.There is a boy named Gus and a mad scientist turns him into a shadow. Gus hates light day. So he destroys all the lights that TOM (who loves Light Day)was hanging up. The shadow flies away with Tom chasing him. Tom shoots his mini light gun into the shadows mouth. The shadow turns back into Gus.

Our play is about teamwork. It is called Fluff Day. It’s about three marshmallows, Fluff, Jiffy, and Fluffenutter who get captured by the evil s’more. The s’more’s plan is to get them in his body to make him a s’more.The reason is that a s’more is invincible and without marshmallow the s’more is just a cracker with chocolate. They fix there problem by working together to stop the s’more from taking them and becoming invincible.

One thing we notice is that the class I have right before lunch often writes a lot about food when it comes to creative writing. I find that funny, and so do they. The Light Day play is going to be interesting, because they want to use flashlights in a darkened room at times in the play. I’m not sure they can pull off their vision but we’ll see. And the Monopoly group has been so funny to watch, as they try to replicate parts of the game while developing their idea into a story.

All in all, the stories are coming along nicely and the groups are working better than most years. My job at this time is to be the “audience,” asking question about stories and characters, and offering some feedback. Mostly, though, I am just the advisor and they are doing what they need to do to get their plays done (we’ll pick it up again after holiday break, which starts tomorrow).

Peace (in the plays),

Of Julapa-Julapago, Nerds, Snowmen and Permitious Berms

puppets 2010 (60)

We’ve moving slowly towards holiday break (not done yet!) and we’re moving slowly on collaborative script writing for puppet theater, too. Slowly, for sure, but making decent progress. The general concept behind the project (see handout for the project) is that each group of three or four students has developed a story line based somewhat on a fictional holiday idea, is writing the script and making original puppets, and then will perform for younger students in our school sometime in January.

Meanwhile, I had groups also post what I termed “the elevator pitch” of their story to our class blog site. The whole idea here is to narrow down a story into a three to five sentence summary. This is a skill that some students really struggle with, I find. What I notice when we do this “elevator pitch” activity is that it sparks new discussions among the group about the core essence of their stories.

Here are a few that got posted yesterday (more will get done today):

Our puppet show is based on a holiday called Permitious Berm Day. The characters are Veronica, Chippy Dippy and the Narrator of the story. The problem the play faces is the day of Permitious Berm Day, and Veronica hates the holiday, but loves to shop. So she heads to the mall instead and runs into a Permitious Berm Day mascot (Chippy Dippy), who convinces her to like the holiday, after singing and arguing. In the end, Veronica goes home and had a special feast for the holiday.

Jour De Bon Bons is about a girl that hates candy on Candy Day. Her little robotic sidekick friend Phillipe is French, love candy, and loves Candy Day (in French, Jour de Bon Bons). Martha makes a giant Veggie Monster to get rid of Candy Day. Carl, a town boy who goes crazy for candy, defeats Veggie Monster by making a giant mint candy to clog him.

Our play: The Real Story of the First Moon Mission
It is about how, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin go to the moon, they find that the moon people need their help to save the moon from Evil, who wants to destroy it in order to prove his power. Neil, Buzz, and the moon people try to turn Evil good and they…
We can’t tell you how it ends! You’ll have to watch the show!

Our puppet play, (No Homework Week) is about two kids, Rock and Brick are ready for no homework when the homework liking nerd Sebastian hypnotizes their classroom’s teacher to give everybody homework. Then Rock and Brick go on an epic journey to get Sebastian to un-hypnotize their teacher. To find out more watch our puppet play.

Our puppet play is called Snowman Day. It is a day where everyone in the town makes snowmen that come to life! But one boy named Frank hates winter and rather would have a endless summer and builds a heat machine to melt the snow.So a boy named Joe who loves winter must stop him from ruining the holiday.

Julapa-Julapago is a holiday where friends give each other presents. A bully beats up on a group of friends because he’s jealous. So he ends up becoming friends.

A few observations:

  • The Permitious Berm group decided to completely make up a wacky idea with made-up names. I asked if they meant “pernicious” but they insisted, not. Permitious.
  • The group doing the “Jour de Bon Bons” play has been using Google Translate to come up with some lines said in French. They are three girls, laughing their way into French words. It’s very funny to watch.
  • Why is it the “nerd” and “geeks” of the world continue to be the ones desiring extra work from the teacher? In my view, those kids are the ones doing things on their own, not looking for extra assignments from school. (Don’t these kids read Boolean Squared?)
  • More than a few groups liberally “borrow” plot ideas from holiday movies they have seen (see Snowman story). I don’t mind that they be inspired by that, but I do encourage them to move beyond that, if they can.

Peace (in the puppets),

20 Puppet Shows up and running

I worked feverishly to move the video performances of our class puppets shows from my digital camcorder to a website this week, so that I could have the site up and running for students and their families this weekend (There are 20 puppet shows, with one still to go — it was delayed due to sickness of one student). I succeeded, but in order to do so, I had to abandon my plan to use my new classroom Mac to make the movies. I returned to familiar ground with my PC and Moviemaker.

Next time …

If you are wondering how I went about creating the puppet show online site:

  • First, of course, my students had to write and perform the plays. This began in early December with brainstorming, collaborative writing, puppet making, and then moved into January with performances;
  • I used my digital camcorder to record them, keeping the rest of the class quiet (which normally is difficult, to be honest, but for times when we are recording, they are wonderful). I keep considering the value of using my Flip Camera for this part of things, but I would have to download between classes, and that doesn’t seem feasible. Plus, I like the quality of video from the camcorder. The sound abilities of Flip are not quite there yet. Of course, sound is always an issue, and my digital camcorder does not have a jack for an external microphone, so kids need to be loud to be heard.
  • I moved the videos from the camcorder to my PC (I am still on XP, by the way), and then dumped the raw videos into MovieMaker, where I added a quick title.
  • In MM, I created a small video file movie (I use the 2.1 m output, which is good for web). This part of the process — creating 21 small movies, essentially — is the most tedious and the longest part of the entire process;
  • I uploaded the videos into my Vimeo account. I pay for an advanced Vimeo account because I want to do different things, including removing all returning links to Vimeo. I just want to the video for embedding and that is it. But there is a free Vimeo account you can get and I have been happy with the hosting of all of my videos there, so far;
  • I went into WordPress.com and set up a free blog site (actually, I returned to the site I used last year, and made a new theme for this year). One of the nice things about WordPress is that it integrates perfectly with Vimeo, so all you need to do is grab the video number from Vimeo and use a macro shortcut [vimeo xxxxxx] and the video embeds automatically. I also tinker with the settings of the WordPress site so that there are NO auto-generated links to other related sites. This means turning off the option for making my site available for search engines. Since we are talking a school site, I don’t want any unsavory links to other sites popping up. Now, with WordPress.com, there is a possibility of advertising, but none of the handful of sites that I have used have had any advertising on it. Probably, there is not enough traffic. But it is something to keep an eye out on. (I also have an adblocker, so if you see ads at my site, please be a friend and let me know)
  • I add the videos under “categories” so that I can group them by class (I teach four classes) and then archive the previous year’s puppet shows under its own category.

And, the Puppet Show site is ready for viewing!

Peace (in the puppets),

PS — Here is a funny one — Sit On Your Head Day:

Nearing the End of Puppet Season

All four of my classes performed their puppets shows yesterday and they really shined. Even the groups of reluctant writers and reluctant performers were able to rise to the occasion and entertain a room full of young kids (our audience were students from preschool through second grade).

What I find amazing is how charged up my sixth graders get when something they have written strikes a chord with the audience. It really brings to the forefront the concept of an authentic situation — writing for a real purpose and not just for me, the teacher.

Today, they will reflect on the entire puppet experience — from the initial brainstorming, to cooperative writing, to making puppets, to performing. This is how we end our Puppet Unit — with reflective writing. (And then, we are back to the Glogs for our literature project).

But my work goes on, as I am now creating videos of each puppet show, uploading into my Vimeo and then need to revamp our Puppet Play WordPress blog for the new shows. This allows us to share the plays with the world, their families and also, themselves. They will be able to see their own plays in action for the first time.

Peace (on a stick),

It’s Puppet Season!

Since mid-December, my students have been working on writing play scripts for puppet shows. The holidays and other things (ie, the other parts of my curriculum) transpired to keep pushing the puppet show finales off into the distant future. The future is here … today and tomorrow, we either videotape the plays or perform them for younger grades in our school.

The cooperative writing groups had to write a play with the concept of an imaginary holiday built into the storyline, develop a clear plot, and create protagonists and antagonists to move the story along. It’s not always an easy process for young writers, and the plays are sort of mixed-quality (depending on the make-up of the groups), but it has been a blast again this year.

Now, we are ready (as we ever will be) to perform. Yesterday, we did rehearsals (putting off our Glogster work, which would have been difficult anyway because of shaky Internet access in our school) with me saying over and over my mantra: “You must be louder! You must be louder!”

I also took photos of the puppets on our hand-carved puppet stage and popped them into Animoto. Check it out:

After I videotape the shows (there are 21 puppet shows), I will create videos and create a website to host them. One of the negatives of puppet shows is that the performers don’t get to see their own shows, since they are behind the puppet theater. (You can see last year’s puppet shows here). I might even use my new Mac this year for editing the videos. Yikes.

Peace (with puppets),

Puppets, Puppets, Puppets, part one

At long last, the unit on theater writing and puppet shows has ended (it stretched into the new year when usually, it is over before the holiday break). While the focus of instruction and activities is all around the writing of a play script (with attention to theme, character and plot), the culmination is the performance of student-originated puppet shows for younger students in our school.

Last week, we spent one day videotaping all of the shows (21 in all — over four classes) and then two other days were spent performing for students from kindergarten through second grade. I think we had about 13 different visiting classes (some were combined).

I’ll write more this week about how I set up the online video site, but here is a link to all of the puppet shows. Feel free to leave comments for my students. I will be taking them to the site in the classroom on Thursday (hoping the videos will all stream fine).

Peace (in crazy little puppets),