Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In the Art Room: Croc-O-Nile Puppetry

Sweet little first grader with her crocodile puppet.
This is a bitter sweet post for me. Today is Lauren's last day in my art room. Come Monday she'll be off being an incredible art-teacher-to-be somewhere else with some other lucky art teacher and her students. I look forward to seeing what she'll do in her new assignment but certainly wish she could stay. I thought I'd share with you one of the many amazing projects she did with the artists at my school.
Lauren reading a book on crocodiles snagged from the library. Did you know that there are 14 different types? And that they have 3 eyelids? And they carry their newborns around in their mouth? Me neither.
When Lauren began student teaching, my first grade students were beginning a paper weaving unit. And while the kids love weaving and learn so much from it, I'm always at a bit of a loss as to what to do with the completed weavings. One year we turned the weaving into the body of a fish. Another year we used black paper and cut out the negative shape of a butterfly to go over the weaving. This year I knew I wanted to stay in keeping with our Egyptian theme. So when I saw a photo on pinterest where a teacher had used the weaving as the body of a crocodile, I knew that's what I wanted to do.
After Lauren read crocodile facts to the kids, we had Kyle the Crocodile come out and ask the kids questions. The puppet is by folkmanis and is extremely realistic. If they kids answered Kyle's questions correctly, they were able to touch his which point I had him whip around and nip at the kids' nose causing complete crazy fun chaos.
I shared with Lauren the photo on pinterest and my crocodile puppet, she said, "Can the kids make a crocodile puppet?" I kinda thought she was crazy but told her to make a mock up and see how it would work. I swear in a matter of 15 minutes she came back to me with a completed puppet that involved so many different media and learning experiences we just knew it had to happen. If you scroll down to the last photo, you'll see Lauren's example.

So began our crocodile puppet lesson. The first part of the lesson involved the kids creating their looms. We create our looms together on the floor. Using 9" X 12" paper, the kids fold their paper in half "hamburger" style. On the opposite end of the fold, they make a very small fold 1" from the top. That small fold is the "stop line" for their cutting. Using scissors and starting at the bottom fold, they cut a vertical line to the stop line, thus creating what looks like a pair of pants. We take each paint leg and cut from the middle to the stop line creating four equal parts. Finally we cut each one of those creating eight parts. Including math terms like half, fourth and eighth is always a good idea.

For the weaving portion, we had the kids create patterned strips of paper. If you look closely at the weavings, you'll see that the strips of paper (er, wefts) have a smaller paper on top of them. This created a kind of texture for the crocodile's body.
The printing idea for this portion of the lesson came from Cathy Topal's Thinking with a Line.
After the weavings were complete, students began their work on the other parts of the crocodile's body. They learned that the crocodiles use their tail for defense. To create the shape, the kids were shown how to fold their paper "hot dog style" and cut from one angle of the rectangle to another with a diagonal line. Open the paper and viola! triangle.
Yeah, this is pretty much how my tables look. Scissors out, pencils on the table and messy hands. It's the art room, I like to keep it real.
Lauren also spent some time chatting with them the difference between printing (when you press something down and pick it back up) and painting (when you press something down and move it around). They also reviewed their line vocabulary.

After printing, students began creating the pieces of their crocodiles face. They created eyes, a nose, feet and teeth. Crocodile bits were kept in envelopes with students names on them.
Inside the mouth of the crocodile is this little mechanism. The kids folded these without any problem. We used 12" X 18" sheets of cheap manilla paper. Here's how:
  1. Tri-fold the paper
  2. Fold the tri-fold in half creating a "V"
  3. Take the ends of the "V" and fold back creating a "W"
Squeeze the openings and you'll see two pockets. This is here your fingers go. Speaking of fingers, look at my old lady hands, ew! Guess my dreams of begin a hand model are over.

I've used this puppet fold for many puppet-y projects with the kids. They love it and get really creative.
Once the puppet mechanism was created, the kids had to cut out large four triangles from 9" X 12" paper. Two cream colored ones to be glued to the inside of the mouth and two green for the outside.
Gluing on the crocodile bits. Both the eyes and the nostrils were created with a "foot", or a folded end, so that they could be glued down easily.
The expressions on each croc was hilariously unique. This one is waiting for his limbs and his teeth.
The kids cut out four legs with the help of a template. Sadly I didn't get a photo of any with their teeth in. Small white triangles were cut out and glued inside for teeth.

This project took many art classes. As some of you know, I have half an hour classes so we had to take baby steps with this project. But the end result was worth it. It's one of those projects the kids won't soon forget.

In line for the Crocodile Parade.
For the end of the project, Lauren had students go on a crocodile parade. She had come up with a tale to of how a polar bear had stolen their baby crocodiles. The students followed the paw prints of the bear (paper prints that Lauren had strewn throughout the school) until they found their crocodile babies. The kept the babies in their mouths like they had learned crocs do and used their tail to fight off the polar bear. The kids loved every minute of it.
Lauren with her crocodile puppet example.
Sigh. So that was the amazing crocodile puppet project created by this amazing young art teacher. I'm so sad that she's leaving, you don't even know! I'm sure crocodile tears will be flowing at some point today. She's promised to come back...and when she does, I'll be certain to photograph her outfits. Best wishes at your new school placement, Laruen!


  1. I think the first graders must be happy to have such good and funny teachers with always very motivating ideas. Surely every pupil went home proudly with this great crocodile made by himself. Congratulations!

  2. woow there great i think that they are absolutely amazing

  3. Love it! I have been scouring the net looking for a puppet that was reasonably priced here in Australia! To no avail. This looks great and will be useful. I am teaching a parent workshop around pre-maths skills. I wanted to do the 5 cheeky monkeys song but need the crocodile to be able to 'chomp' the monkey! These will be perfect! Thank you for sharing this amazing project.

  4. Dena Olinde4/29/2016

    I love it! I am trying it with my kindergarten class. We did the weaving today, and it went very well. I can't wait to see their finished products. The kids are so excited about it. :)


Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate each and every one :)

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.