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Monte Vista students create puppets, write scripts for dual immersion puppet shows

Aug 30, 2017 10:48AM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Monte Vista dual immersion students perform a puppet show for classmates and families in both English and Chinese. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com

Monte Vista second-grader Briton Wessman remembers going to a puppet show two years ago when his cousin Jack, created his own puppet and helped write the script for a puppet show.

“It was fun, so I decided I wanted to do that, too,” said the Chinese dual immersion student. “I ended up using the same story for my puppet show this year.”

Briton and 42 classmates are part of the second-grade Chinese immersion class that performed 10 original puppet shows in both English and Chinese for family and friends. The plays were written by students based on stories that were familiar to their Chinese teacher, Yilan Xie, said second-grade teacher Diane Edwards.

“It’s been so valuable for kids to be writing their puppet shows from scratch,” she said. “They wrote cooperatively with the dialog and making the story be their own. It has helped them have a better understanding of narrative writing and communicating with an audience as well as reading and writing in both English and Chinese.”

Before Edwards taught in the dual immersion program, her classes would produce plays.

“I saw that they would gain so much in their literary skills from thinking, writing and reading with expression that I decided it would be beneficial to continue it with dual immersion,” she said. “They read, reread and practiced reading and speaking with their groups, so they’re also learning group cooperation and craftsmanship.”

Edwards said students had to learn the stories, then summarize it before writing a narrative and dialog. 

“They had to work with each other and write legibly so their classmates could read it,” she said. “They had to learn to keep the story moving and come up with an ending, which was hard for some students.” 

The stories have traditional tales and themes, such as “Unity is Strength,” “The Wise Little Cat” and “The Clever Rabbits.” Some are familiar with growing up in America as well, Edwards said. Those, with variations, were “Why Dogs Chase Cats” and “The Dog Who Cried Wolf.”

Each show was produced by a group of students who created their own puppets specifically for the performance. The puppets are more than paper sacks. Hours are spent forming paper mache heads, hand-sewing their bodies and creating their faces and costumes, Edwards said.

For Briton, it was the first time he had ever tried paper mache or had sewed.

“It was kind of fun,” he said. “I’m keeping the puppet and will put on shows with my cousins for my family.”

Students also worked together to create backdrops. Each student group created their own scenery for their script, Edwards said.

“It’s a long-term project where they learned numerous skills and had to keep working on it,” she said. “They learned that a lot of things in life can’t be done in one day.”

They practiced several times before their final performance,  including holding a dress rehearsal for first-graders, who will have the chance to create their own puppet shows next year.

The second-graders use the puppet show stage created by second-grade teacher Tracy McCurdy and her husband. Second-grade neighborhood classes also produced their own puppet shows — “The Magic Fish,” “The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig,” “The Great Ball Game,” “The Three Goldilocks and The Bear,” “The Three Wishes,” and “Luke Skywalker and The Three Droids.”

“Our students create their tales from fractured story tales,” she said. “They’re really excited about it, and it’s just awesome that they’re being creative. One group is doing a ‘Star Wars’ theme, and they’re having a duel with glow sticks. But at the same time, they’re showing they can read, highlight the main ideas by writing a script, read and speak with expression and show what they’re learning.”

Students return to tell McCurdy it’s one of their favorite memories from elementary school.

“At the time, many of them just think it’s fun, but later, they come to say they’ve learned so much,” she said.

Edwards said students are proud of their puppet shows.

“They are just so proud of their creation and their accomplishments,” she said. “It’s the joy of doing something new and working hard so they know they can do it well. It’s a big success, and they have so much fun.” 

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