Do you know how cats love cardboard boxes? Well, this year I discovered that kids love paper bags just as much!
It started off when I was babysitting friends’ grandchildren during a funeral. Before leaving home, I quickly threw a “survival bag” together, a teacher trick, and I grabbed some paper bags that were on the counter. The girls I was babysitting so enjoyed making paper bag puppets! They thought that was fun, but when I put two kitchen chairs together to make a stage and draped a blanket from one chair to another to make a curtain, they were so zany with glee. They came up with a couple of skits and then made videos. I had so much fun watching the girls in action, and so did their toddler brother!
In the meantime, our school’s cafeteria was putting breakfasts in paper bags. These were bigger than a lunch-sized, so big that the boys in my class started wearing them like chef’s hats. (This class has been so much fun!) Soon they were decorating these chef’s hats, and eventually, I introduced the awesomeness of the paper bag puppet.
We were wrapping up a unit on narrative elements, so I decided to turn their obsession with paper products into a culminating project. Hence the paper bag play project. I won’t go into details, but if you want to check out the template for the slides the students used, here is the link. Excuse the plainness of it — the students decorated the slides on their own. Their final results were pretty neat!
After students were done planning their play on the slides, they performed in groups in class. I marked off an area in the back of the room with masking tape. That was where students would hang their background. Then, I set up my extra laptop on a Zoom facing their backdrop. Students hid behind the desk and made their puppets perform on a Zoom that showed up on my whiteboard. It was a blast!
If any teachers would like to borrow my idea, they are more than welcome. One head’s up: Emphasize and reemphasize the no violence policy! One of the favorite things to act out with puppets are physical altercations. That has been a fact for centuries — look at Punch and Judy! One of my groups may or may not have even made fake blood out of small construction paper squares, which they threw in the air during their performance. Yes, I took off ten points for the violence. I also added ten points for creativity. (My savvy 5th-grade boys assured me that the small red paper squares were indeed just ketchup packets.)
One of the class favorites was Bevin. He is still with us, though many of the other paper bags have departed this world via the recycling bin. Bevin has had multiple surgeries, and he has been cloned. And whenever something mysterious happens in the classroom, Bevan becomes the scapegoat. Next year, I might market Bevan as a leveled-up, Elf on the Shelf. Those hollowed-out eyes are always watching you!