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Prop Design


Students will apply their knowledge of prop design by designing a prop for a fairytale of their choice.

Materials Needed

Access to YouTube clip from Importance of Being Earnest:


white paper,

colored pencils,

white board,

2 copies of 3 little pigs, jack and the beanstalk, and hansel and gretel

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Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

(2 minutes): Gather the students in a circle and begin to “pass back papers” only pantomiming the activity. After you have done this, ask the students- “What was missing?”


Step 1(2 minutes): Ask the students, “What if this happened during a play?” “Would the audience believe I was really passing out papers?” “What is the purpose of props in a production?” Let students answer these questions.

Step 2 (1 minute): Explain that so far we have discussed costumes, make-up, set, and lighting design. These are to help a play become more real to the audience. But even if we had all of those elements, if the actors didn’t have any props, the audience wouldn’t believe what was happening onstage anymore. Props must be chosen carefully and deliberately.

Step 3 (7 minutes): Have the students watch The Importance of Being Earnest clip. Have the students write down as many props as they see. After the clip, ask the students to count up the number of props they wrote down. Ask the students who thinks they have the most props. Ask the students to name off the props they wrote down. Either the teacher or a student volunteer can write these up on one part of the board.

Step 4 (10 minutes): Tell the students there are 3 different kinds of props. Write these up on the board: Set props, Hand Props, and Set Dressing. Go through each and ask if the students could infer what each of these mean. Ask for examples of each as well. To be sure the students are on the right track, here are their definitions:

·         Set e sure the students are on the right track, here are their definitions:

·          ries nd Set Dressing. Props- larger movable items, not built into the set that are used in some way by the actors. Examples: furniture, floor lamps, rugs, stoves, tree stumps, swings, etc.

·         Hand Props- small items that are handled or carried by the actors. Examples: plates, cups, letters, books, fans, lanterns, etc.

·         Set Dressing- all things that are used to enhance the setting visually but are not specifically touched by the actors. Examples: window curtains, pictures, doilies, table lamps, books in a bookcase, etc.

Step 5 (7 minutes): Go to the collective list on the board and go through each prop listed and ask the students to help you label what each prop is. Clear up any confusion that may arise.

Step 6 (1 minute): Ask the students, “What do you think a prop designer needs to keep in mind when gathering props?” Answers might be: time period, budget, style, etc. 

Step 7 (2 minutes): Ask the students to brainstorm together how props are acquired. Some answers might be: thrift stores, repurposing, building, borrowing, renting, etc.

Step 8 (15 minutes): Ask the students to get into groups of 2 or 3. Have each group find their own space in the room, bringing a pencil/pen and something to write with. Inform each group that they are going to choose a fairy tale, Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or Hansel and Gretel. Make a copy of each story for the groups to read over. Ask the students to make a list of props they would need if they were to perform the fairytale. Ask the students to be thorough.

Step 9 (25 minutes): After the students have made their list, ask each student to pick a prop from the list and design their own prop. Ask the students to draw the prop as best as they can. Provide colored pencils. Ask the students that after they draw their prop, they need to describe in detail what the prop needs to look like- time period, condition, how large, color, any special considerations, etc. Then they must suggest two ways of acquiring it- how they think they might build it, an idea of a place you might buy the prop, etc. This must be turned in at the end of the 20 minutes.

Step 11 (5 minutes): Have the students come back together as a class. Gather the fairytale papers from the students. Explain to the students that we will be working on a project for the end of this unit. We will be creating designs for Rumpelstiltskin. Explain that next class we will be learning about a director’s concept and then we will move forward with the project- details will be given next class.


Students will design a prop from a fairytale of their choice, giving clear and detailed descriptions and suggest two ways of acquiring the prop.


Design Grading Guide:

·         Design: 3 points- design is completed by all group members

·         Explanation: 5 points- explanation is clear and all group members contributed

Acquire suggestions:  2 suggestions for acquiring the prop- 1 point each.


Author's Notes

Fairy Tale stories- http://ivyjoy.com/fables/

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