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Bunraku Puppetry Movement

Puppetry Principles

Lesson 1:

Puppetry Principles


Student will demonstrate and practice basic puppetry principles by creating short scenes using found object puppets.


  • Enough small random objects for each person in the class
  • Drama Journals

Hook: Pass the Clap

  1. Gather students into a circle.
  2. Explain that they are going to pass a a clap around the circle.
  3. One person will start by slowly clapping their hands once while face the person to the left of them.
  4. The person to the left will simultaneously clap with the beginner to receive the clap.
  5. They will then turn to the left and clap simultaneously with the next person, thus passing the clap to them.
  6. Students should focus on clapping at exactly the same time when giving or receiving the clap.
  7. Try passing the clap around the room slowly.
  8. Try passing it a second time quickly.
  9. Then pass the clap multiple times challenging the students to get into a steady rhythm, one one clap should stand out.
  10. Once the students get a really consistent rhythm teach them that they can reverse the flow of the clap by receive and then not turn to pass it on, thus they are returning the clap after they have received it.
  11. Ask the students to see if they can get a smooth a rhythm as their last round while still returning claps randomly.


  1. Have students take a seat and ask them what was challenging about the game? And what they had to do to overcome those challenges?
  2. Ask the students to compare how they felt mentally and physically before and after the game. Why do they think the game affected them in that way.

Activity: Found Object Puppetry 1.0

  1. Pour a pile of random small objects in the center of the circle.
  2. Tell students that they should grab one object each and that it will become their puppet for the rest of class.
  3. Explain that the first principle of puppetry is sight. So they must choose a place to have their puppet’s eyes. Have the students practice seeing things around the room with their puppet.
  4. The second principle is breath. Have the student practice showing their puppet breathing using the sound of their own breath.

Activity : Pass the energy

  1. Have students put their puppets to the side and stand up in the circle.
  2. They will do a new version of pass the clap but this time they will pass a ball of energy that contains any emotion they want it to. They will show this emotion through their breath, vocalizations, and the way the invisible energy moves their hands.
  3. Each person will receive the energy with the same emotion it is given in. They will then change it and pass it on to the next person.
  4. Side coach the students by telling the to really receive the energy the way it is being given.

Activity: Pass the Clap 2.0

  1. Students will retrieve their found object puppet.
  2. They will then practice different energies by making their puppet breath and move according to that emotion.
  3. sad
  4. happy
  5. hyper
  6. silly
  7. laughing
  8. scared
  9. bored
  10. interested
  11. in love
  12. The final principle is anatomy.
  13. Students must decide how their puppet moves and what is possible movements they can actually make. For the sake of the exercise have student maintain the laws of gravity for their puppets.
  14. Give them a minute to explore how their puppet could move.
  15. Then challenge them to make their puppet
  16. jump
  17. fall
  18. dance
  19. hop
  20. stretch
  21. climb

Activity : Small Scenes

  1. Have students find a partner.
  2. They will have a few minutes to create a short scene.
  3. There scene must have a
  4. beginning, middle, and an end.
  5. conflict/resolution
  6. one entrance/one exit
  7. a discovery must be made.
  8. The story can have vocalizations but no words.
  9. Give Students time to practice and look at each on individually to help or give feedback.
  10. Have the students perform for each other.


  1. After the performances are done, ask the students to pull out their Drama Journals.
  2. Write down what parts of the performances engaged them and why?
  3. Ask them to notice when individuals were using the puppet principles and how that helped them understand the story.
  4. Tell students that next class we will be building our own puppets in teams.