Portable Puppet Theater



Gothic Period Puppet Theater
Click the photo to view or print the pattern and instructions for the puppet theater craft





When my son was in tenth grade, he took an AP World History class.  The textbook was huge.  It took up the majority of space in his over-sized backpack.  He’s not a big fan of textbook reading, so I challenged him to read 4 pages each night and we’d discuss it the following day.  This meant I had to read 4 pages each night.  It wasn’t an easy read, but I am so glad I forced myself to read it.  I learned so much!

I was fascinated by the amount of traveling and trading that took place throughout history.  From the beginning of time, people were curious to find out what was beyond their borders.   Travel in the High Middle Ages brought big changes to the way people perceived the world.  The Silk Road connected Europe, Africa, and Asia.  Travelers from those three continents would walk together, temporarily live together, and learn from one another.  There were also sea routes where massive trade ships sailed to other continents.  The voyages took weeks and the sailors would spend long periods of time in foreign lands.  There was plenty of time to share stories, try new foods, and learn another language.  Sharing information about one another’s religions created a variety of new religions and converts to existing religions.  New ideas, goods, and stories were brought back to the homeland.  The old feudal system was crumbling.  Some people who were once “just craftsmen” became wealthy merchants.  There was an opportunity to advance to a better social class.


#10 Gothic Cathedrals – Cities built tall cathedrals to show off their wealth.  The floor plan was usually designed in the shape of a cross.  The massive cathedrals stood at the center of the city surrounded by a marketplace.  The walls of the cathedrals were so high, they needed to be supported so they wouldn’t collapse.

#9 The Flying Buttress – (Kids love learning this term.) These were the supports invented to hold up the weight of the walls.

#8 Gargoyles – Ghoulish creatures called gargoyles were used as gutters on the tall cathedrals.  Rain water filled the hallow gargoyle body and sprayed out its mouth.  The word gargoyle comes from a French word that means “to gargle.”

#7 Stained Glass – Small colorful pieces of glass are cut and laid-out to create art.  Strips of lead are used to hold the pieces together.  The beautiful stained glass windows filled the cathedrals with colorful sunlight.

#6 Black Death – Also known as the bubonic plague.  The disease was carried by fleas.  The fleas lived on rats that stowed-away in the goods being transported from Asia by travelers on the Silk Road.  Large crowded cities were dirty and had a huge rat population.  The plague spread quickly.  At least a third of the European population died.

#5 The Magna Carta – This was a document that dealt with protecting the rights of people.  It basically said no one is above the law, not even the king.  The document was written by a group of rich barons who realized their king, King John (the villain in Robin Hood stories), was a cruel bad-tempered man who took advantage of his power.   The barons forced the king to sign the Magna Carta.

#4 Fashion – This is the time when fashion began.  Traders brought back new fabrics, like velvet and silk.  The spinning wheel made it easier to produce fabric.   Clothing styles for the rich were changing at a faster pace than ever before.  People wanted the latest fad.   The people of the High Middle Ages were crazy dressers!  Men wore tights with two different colored legs.  The women wore tall pointy cone hats (hennins), gloves, and carried purses.  Everyone wore long pointy-toed shoes.  The length of the toe showed a person’s social standing.  Some people’s shoes were so ridiculously long, the government had to make laws against dangerous shoes.  Clothes were sewn to fit the body.  Buttons were functional and no longer just for decoration.

#3 Guilds – Groups of craftsmen with similar skills got together to look out for one another.  Guilds were the unions of the Middle Ages.  Candle makers, shoemakers, bakers, weavers, and masons were some of the guilds of the Middle Ages.

#2 Rich Merchants – People got rich selling and trading stuff.

#1 The Silk Road and Ocean Trade Routes – The Silk Road was a trade route that connected Asia, Africa, and Europe.  Merchants traveled on horseback, in carriages, or on foot to trade with people from distant lands.  There were also ocean trade routes where massive ships traveled long distances to trade goods with people on other continents.  They traded food, silver, cloth, clothing, building supplies, home goods, spices, tea, and even slaves.  A young Italian boy named Marco Polo sailed to China on a merchant ship with his father and uncle. He met the great Emperor Kublai Khan and traveled the Silk Road on several business trips.  He returned to Venice with unbelievable stories of his adventures.

Make the PORTABLE PUPPET THEATER  Click the link to view or print the PDF.

In the High Middle Ages, puppeteers traveled from town to town with their puppet theaters on the back of a wagon.  They would perform puppet shows on city streets.  Your students can design the theater for “Saint George and the Dragon” or they can write their own puppet play and use the template to make their own design.

Click the link to go to the GOTHIC PERIOD on my website for FREE activities or to purchase the unit.