Category Archives: learning

Creating the Best Learning Environment in Your Classroom

OD Workshop - CBAT Timeline 2 - SmallHere are some tips on how to create the best learning environment in an adult learning engagement.

Rearrange Your Space

Nine times out of ten, when you get to the training venue, there will be something about the arrangement of tables and equipment that won’t be helpful for learning.  Arrive early (with a helper if possible), and rearrange tables, chairs, projectors, screens and other things to make sure that every participant will be able to see, hear and engage.  Make sure there are no obstacles in the way, that everyone can see the screen and facilitator, that your voice will carry to the furthest participant or that you have microphones.  Sit in participant chairs to see what they see.  Make sure they have enough space so that they don’t feel too cramped.

Expect the Unexpected

Things will always go wrong, so prepare for them.  Test all your equipment (especially LCD projectors, microphones and speakers).  Test and cue your videos to the right places.  Get extra batteries for the microphones.  Bring extra markers, and test them all to make sure they write well.  Decide what you will do if lunch is late, if the power goes out, if a senior leader decides to take up some of your time, if your printouts aren’t ready or unreadable.  Always have a Plan B.

Put Someone in Charge

Participants may be uncomfortable in the learning environment but too polite or shy to let you know.  At the beginning of your workshop, ask someone to volunteer to be the person in charge of the environment.  If participants are having trouble hearing or understanding you, they can tell the person in charge, who will let you know.  If they need a break or they need to adjust the air, they can tell the person in charge, who will let you know.  This gives adult learns more control over their environment, which increases their engagement.

Get Feedback Everyday

At least once a day (and more if you can afford the time), make time for participants to give you feedback about the content, the pace, the facilitation and the environment.  There are many ways to do this, but a few that we have found successful are a Rapid Evaluation Form at the end of the day (a one-page questionnaire on the four topics mentioned above) and a flipchart with a +, -, ? at the top (participants write what they like, dislike and have questions about on different sticky notes and post them as they leave).  Make adjustments based on what you learn, and tell your participants what you are doing so that they know their feedback counts.

Move Frequently from Big Group to Small Group

Try to keep your lectures to 10-15 minutes at the most.  Then, let the table groups discuss what they are hearing or do some type of activity with it.  This has multiple benefits.  It makes the most of short attention spans.  It helps those who are behind to catch up with the rest of their table.  It reinforces the learning through repetition and contextualization.  It balances learning for introverts and extroverts.  It surfaces questions that might not have been asked out loud.  It socializes the learning.  (This is the 20% of The Center for Creative Leadership’s (CCL’s) 70-20-10 model.)

Contextualize Your Content

Whenever possible, use local, relevant examples to illustrate your points.  If you don’t know them, ask for a subject matter expert (SME) to provide some before the training.  If you don’t have time to do that, let groups discuss the content and come up with their own local examples.  When we train on concepts that are new and different, it is harder for the learning to transfer from the classroom to the work environment.  Relevant examples help participants see how to apply the learning to their work.

Know Your Audience

Do the research to learn about who will be attending your workshop.  What do they know already?  Who are the experts in the room?  What is their work context?  What significant things are going on for them right now (at least in their work life)?

Only Teach Those Who Need to Know

Are the participants the right people to be attending this training?  If they are not, negotiate with your customer to get the right people in the room.  Participants who don’t participate can ruin the learning for everyone else, because they may be distracted, disinterested and disengaged.  If you have to keep them in your workshop, assign them something to do.  Acknowledge their expertise, and ask them to be table leaders or SME’s.  Let them help you manage the room or pass out materials.  Ask them to help you record meeting notes, parking lot questions or feedback from the others.  Invite them to join you for your facilitator debrief session at the end of the day.  Keep them busy.

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Learning Links (OBJ LESSON)


15 minutes

This object lesson teaches that we learn by linking new ideas to old ones and demonstrates that this is the method Jesus used to teach about the Kingdom of God.


  • Mark 4:26-32 (man who throw seeds; mustard seed)
  • Luke 13:20-21 (yeast)


  • Large paperclips, carabineers or toy chain links (50 or more)
  • Slips of paper to mark places in the Bible for the verses you will share.
  • Bible



  • Form a chain of your paperclips, carabineers or toy chain links.  It should include 30-40 links, so that you can create a large “ball” of links when you hold them all in your hands.
  • Have your other links separated individually and at the front of the teaching area.
  • Write the Scriptures you want read on individual slips of paper, and put them in the Bible at the appropriate places.
  • Practice the script.


Use the following script and instructions (or modify to suit your needs):

  • “When Jesus taught, He used a teaching technique called a parable.”
  • “A parable is a simple story that teaches a spiritual lesson.”
  • “The word, ‘parable’ means, ‘to throw alongside of.’” (from the Greek – para, means ‘beside,’ and bole, means ‘a throw’)
  • “With His parables, Jesus was placing two ideas right beside each other.”
  • “He would always use one idea that the listener already knew, and it was usually about farming or fishing or everyday living.”
  • “Then, He would compare what the listener already knew to something they didn’t know about, like the Kingdom of God.”
  • “Let’s look at a few examples.”  (Ask volunteers to read the following Scriptures: Mark 4:26-32, Luke 13:20-21.)
  • “In these Scriptures, Jesus uses examples about farming and cooking to make comparisons to the Kingdom of God.”
  • “In other Scriptures, He uses children, camels, childbirth, light, salt, parties (feasts or banquets), weddings, masters and servants, and fig trees to teach about the Kingdom.”
  • “Let me show you why Jesus taught in this way.”  (Ask a volunteer to come forward, and hand him/her a single link.)
  • “The people Jesus was teaching about the Kingdom of God didn’t know anything about it, but they did know some things about fishing and farming and weddings and trees…”
  • “This link (ask volunteer to hold up their link) represents the knowledge that the people already had about ordinary things in their lives.” (Hold up your “ball” of links.)
  • “This giant ball of links represents everything that Jesus knew about the Kingdom of God.”
  • “If Jesus had tried to give them the entire ball of knowledge all at one time, they wouldn’t have been able to handle it.”  (Toss the ball of links to the volunteer.  It’s okay if he/she doesn’t catch it.  That will illustrate your point.)
  • “Jesus knew that he had to start small and start with what they already knew.”  (Take your ball of links back, and remove one link.)
  • “So, He taught in parables and said this thing that you already know (point to the link in the volunteer’s hand) is like the Kingdom of God.” (Hold up the ball of links) in this way (hold up the single link that you removed from the ball. Then, connect it to the link in the volunteer’s hand.)
  • “The Kingdom of God is like a man who throws seeds.” (Remove another link from the ball and connect it to the volunteer’s links.)
  • “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.” (Remove another link from the ball and connect it to the volunteer’s links.)
  • “The Kingdom of God is like yeast that works its way through the dough.” (Remove another link from the ball and connect it to the volunteer’s links.)
  • “Unless you become like little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” (Remove another link from the ball and connect it to the volunteer’s links.)
  • “In the Kingdom of God, there will be a great wedding feast!” (Remove another link from the ball and connect it to the volunteer’s links.)
  • “Just like you see new leaves on the fig tree when summer is coming, you will see certain signs that tell you when the Kingdom of God is near.” (Remove another link from the ball and connect it to the volunteer’s links.)
  • “You cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless you are born a second time in your spirit.” (Remove another link from the ball and connect it to the volunteer’s links.)
  • “By teaching in this way, Jesus helps understand something very big and difficult to understand.” (Hold up ball of links.)
  • “And this is the way all learning works.”
  • “We connect something we know to something we don’t know, and it helps us to understand it better.”  (Thank and dismiss your volunteer.)


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4MAT Learning Styles of Biblical Characters (BIBLICAL CASE STUDY)


Teens, Adults


45 minutes

A Biblical Case Study is an exercise that uses Scripture to practice the use of modern business and leadership tools.  In this case study, participants will try to determine where Biblical characters fit in Bernice McCarthy’s 4MAT Learning Styles.



Nehemiah, chapters 1-4



  • Flipchart paper and markers for each table group (1 page each).
  • Masking tape (if you want to hang the flipcharts on the wall)
  • Sticky notes (one pad per table)
  • Marker (one per table)
  • Bible for each table group


o  Teach about Bernice McCarthy’s 4MAT Learning Styles.



Use the following process (or modify to suit your needs):

o  After teaching about the four quadrants, ask participants to draw the model on their own flip chart.

o  Allow them to customize it with language or symbols that are meaningful to them as long as they don’t lose the essence of what the quadrants represent.

o  Give them a list of Biblical characters.  (My recommendations are Noah, Job, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, King Saul, Jonah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, Esther, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John the Beloved, Andrew, Paul, Timothy – but feel free to use others if you like.)

o  Have each group work as a team to put the names of each of these characters on an individual sticky note and place it in the quadrant on the chart that they think best represents the character’s learning style.

o  When they are all done, pick one character and discuss as a group.

o   Why do they think he/she fits in that quadrant?

o   What do other teams think?

o  Try to reach consensus among the teams, and keep your ears open for misunderstandings about the model. If you hear some incorrect understandings, correct those with the entire class.

o  Do a few characters like this until you are comfortable that they understand the model well.

o  Then, step out of the discussion, and let them debate among themselves. If they can’t reach a consensus, step back in to guide the decision making with some reminders about the model.


I’m including some recommended quadrants for each of the characters I mentioned above, but these are subjective and you could make strong arguments in some cases for placing them in other quadrants. “Correct answers” are not the most important outcome of this activity. What’s much more important is the process of participants wrestling with the model to find a place for the Biblical characters. In the end, they should have a much stronger understanding of the model even if their answers are “wrong.


Recommended Quadrants

Q1 – Imaginative Learner

·      Abraham

·      Samuel

·      Jonah


Q2 – Analytical Learner

·      Noah

·      Job

·      Jeremiah

·      Daniel

·      Esther

·      Andrew

·      James

·      Timothy

Q3 – Common Sense Learner

·      Sarah

·      Jacob

·      Paul


Q4 – Dynamic Learner

·      Moses

·      King Saul

·      David

·      Isaiah

·      Nebuchadnezzar

·      John the Baptist

·      Peter

·      John the Beloved


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Heart, Head, Hands (REVIEW)


10-15 minutes

Children, youth, adults



This is a simple review process that you can use in almost any situation.  Participants first talk about how they feel about what they just experienced (HEART), then about what they learned (HEAD), and finally about what they are going to do as a result of what they experienced and learned (HANDS).  You can have the participants discuss this is groups, or you can do a facilitated discussion.



  • None



  • Practice the script.



Use the following script and instructions (or modify to suit your needs):

  • “Let’s review what you’ve just experienced.”
  • “We will use a simple process, called ‘Heart, Head, Hands.’”
  • “First, I would like you to share how you feel about the experience.  That’s the HEART part.”
  • “Then, I want you to discuss what you learned from it.  That’s the HEAD part.”
  • “Finally, discuss what you will do as a result of what you experienced and what you learned.  That’s the HANDS part.”
  • “HEART, HEAD, HANDS is just a simple way to help you remember the process for the debrief.”
  • “Does anyone have any questions about what we are about to do?” (Answer any questions.  Then, let them discuss the three aspects of the debrief.  Finish with a large-group debrief and ask for volunteers to share any insights or commitments that they made.)


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Review Chips (REVIEW)


20 minutes

Children, youth, adults



This review activity uses Learning Chips from Kagan ( to debrief just about any learning exercise.  Each chip (similar to a poker chip) has a question on it (e.g., “What did you learn that was new?” or “What questions do you still have?”)  Use the chips as a fun way to have participants think about what they learned from different perspectives.  They can be used over and over, and participants will still have a unique experience as they get different chips with different situations.

Kagan offers learning chips with different themes, like “Teambuilding,” “Lesson Review,” “Story Discussion,” “Reading Comprehension,” “Interview,” or “Discussion.”



  • Set of Learning Chips for each group of participants (There are 16 chips in a package, and you can purchase one package online for $5 or eight packages for $29.)



  • Practice the script.



Use the following script and instructions (or modify to suit your needs):

  • “To review what we’ve talked about today, we are going to use these Learning Chips.”
  • “Each table has a set.”
  • “Please open up the container, and pass a chip to each person in your group.”
  • “Now, go around the group and have each person answer the question on your chip.”
  • “If for any reason, you cannot answer the question, you have to trade your chip in and get another one that you can answer.”  (After everyone has answered their question, you might want to ask a few participants to share insights with you from the activity.)

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Lemons Into Lemonade (OBJ LESSON)


10-15 minutes

Children, Teens, Adults



This object lesson teaches about how God brings good things out of bad and uses the metaphor of turning lemons into lemonade.


  •   Romans 8:28


  • Lemons – enough for everyone to have a wedge after you cut them up and 5 or 6 for you to juice at the front of the room
  • Lemonade – enough for everyone to have some (I recommend Capri Sun Lemonade pouches for the ease of preparation, distribution and clean-up.)
  • Knife (to cut the lemons)
  • Juicer (manual or electric)
  • Bowl or Ziplock bag to hold the lemon wedges
  • Cup or bowl to catch the juice
  • Sugar (1 cup should be enough for the amount of lemonade you are making)
  • Water (approximately 2 quarts)
  • Pitcher (one)
  • Spoon (for stirring the lemonade)
  • Table to work on


  • Slice lemons into wedges.
  • Set up all your materials on a table at the front.
  • Enlist a few helpers to help you pass out lemons and lemonade at different times during the lesson.
  • Practice the script.


Use the following script (or modify to suit your needs):

  • “How many of you have tasted a lemon before?” (As you talk, juice five or six lemons into your cup or bowl, and have someone pass around the lemon wedges to everyone in the audience.)
  •  “Why don’t we all take a taste of the lemons you’ve been given.” (Demonstrate what you want them to do, and observe them tasting their lemons.  Comment on the sour faces.)
  • “They are pretty sour, aren’t they?”  (Continue juicing your lemons as you talk.)
  • “They make you think twice before taking a second bite, I bet.”
  • “You know, sometimes life is pretty sour. I bet this is not the first time you made that face.”
  • “The truth is, bad things sometimes happen to good people.”
  • “Sometimes it’s not your fault.”
  • “You may not have done anything to deserve it, but you are suffering anyway.”
  • “Maybe a bully picks on you or your brother takes your stuff or your sister tells a lie about you…”
  • “Those could be pretty sour experiences, and they might make you want to make the same face you made a minute ago.”
  • “But you know what? When life gives you lemons, God makes lemonade!”
  • “Yep, He uses the bad stuff that happens to us to make us better. He doesn’t always take the bad stuff away. Often, He sweetens it.” (Pour the juice, water and some of your sugar into the pitcher and stir.)
  • “One day, the same bully who picked on you may become your friend.”
  • “Your brother took your old stuff, but you got something better.”
  • “Your sister told a lie about you, but she apologized later.”
  • “God takes lemons and makes lemonade.” (Taste, make sour face, add more sugar and stir.)
  • “It may take some time for God to sweeten up your lemon juice, but I promise He will if you will trust him with your lemons.” (Taste and smile.)
  • “Ahhh! That’s good stuff! How’s your lemonade?”  (Show mock surprise when they protest that they only have lemons.)
  • “What? All you’ve got are sour lemons?”
  • “Let’s ask God to make those lemons into some lemonade.” (Signal some helpers to get ready to pass out lemonade as you pray.)
  • (PRAY) “Lord, all of these kids have gotten some lousy lemons in their lives. Will you please take those sour lemons and turn them into sweet lemonade for each person in this room? We thank you for your faithful hand in our lives, and we give you every lemon that’s ever happened to us. We love you, Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”  (Signal your helpers to pass out the lemonade.)
  • “Now, let’s have some lemonade to celebrate what God’s going to do with our lemons one day.”  (The Rhyme Time below can be used to reinforce the message of the lesson.  You can also have a volunteer read Romans 8:28 to show how God promises to make all things work for the good of those who love Him.)


Rhyme Time

If we trust Him and obey, God makes bad things go OUR way!



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Filed under Abundance, acceptance, blessing, Bullying, Challenges, Change, Conflict Resolution, God's Plan, God's Protection, Healing, learning, Lesson, Object Lesson, Overcoming obstacles, Problem solving, Transformation

Learning Transfer (EXERCISE)

Children, Teens or Adults

30 minutes

This activity helps teachers, presenters, facilitators and trainers recognize the inherent challenges in teaching as we compete against our audiences’ or participants’ mental barriers to learning transfer.  This exercise can be presented as a “game,” but it is more of a “gotcha” in which participants are set up to fail in order to emphasize the learning point.

•    Notecards (approximately 30 for every two people)
•    Marker or pen (one for every two people)
•    Article (There is one at the end of this lesson.  You may want to choose a different article better suited to your participants’ level of knowledge.  It should be written with unfamiliar vocabulary in order to provide a challenge in understanding the message.)
•    Quiz with 10-15 questions and answers (There is one at the end of this lesson, or you can prepare your own based on the article that you choose.)
•    Prizes (optional)

•    Read through the article to make sure you are familiar with it.
•    Create your quiz if you are using a different article than the one provided.
•    Divide the group into pairs, and give each pair a marker/pen and a stack of the notecards.
•    Ask someone to be your ‘Distractor’ – the person who will steal ideas from Short-Term Memory

Use the following script, or modify to suit your needs:
•    “Brain research shows that the short-term memory is only able to hold seven pieces of information at any one time and that it can only hold each piece of information for about 20 seconds.”
•    “In that 20 seconds, your short-term memory is doing three things:

1.    Trying to understand (“decode”) the message
2.    Dealing with distractions
3.    Learning and transferring the information to long-term memory”

•    “In order to learn new things, you have to overcome challenges in understanding the message and dealing with distractions, and you only have 20 seconds to do it with each piece of information.”
•    “If you don’t learn that information and transfer it to long-term memory in 20 seconds, your brain dumps it and replaces it with something else.”
•    “If more than seven pieces of new information are presented to you at one time, your short-term memory will dump new information even faster as new information replaces ‘old’ information.”
•    “It’s amazing that we ever learn anything, right?”
•    “For teachers, presenters, facilitators and trainers, this is a challenge to how we typically present things we want people to learn.”
•    “If we cover the information too quickly, they won’t get it.”
•    “If we don’t make it simple enough for them to quickly understand it, they won’t get it.”
•    “If they are distracted by fellow students, personal problems, discomfort, irritating habits that the trainer has, etc…, they won’t get it.”
•    “Let’s play a game that will demonstrate how tough this really is.”
•    “I’ve divided you into pairs and given each pair a stack of notecards and a pen/marker.”
•    “In your pairs, select one person to be ‘Short-Term Memory (STM)’ and one person to be ‘Long-Term Memory (LTM).’” (Allow time for them to select roles.)
•    “I’m going to read an article out loud.”
•    “As I read, STM will use the pen/marker and the notecards to write down the most important ideas from the article.”
•    “I won’t tell you what those ideas are.  You have to decide for yourself.”
•    “Once STM has written the idea down, he/she will hand it to LTM.”
•    “LTM will take the idea, read it and place it face-down in front of him/her.”
•    “It doesn’t matter how LTM chooses to organize the ideas.  That’s up to him/her.”
•    “When STM writes down an idea, that represents understanding the information (decoding).”
•    “When STM hands the idea to LTM, that represents learning transfer.”
•    “That alone will be challenging, but there’s one additional challenge you will have to deal with.”
•    “I’ve asked ______ to be our ‘Distractor.’”
•    “His/her job is to walk around the room and steal ideas away from STM.”
•    “Distractor can take the idea when it’s being written or when it’s being passed.”
•    “The idea isn’t safe until it is face-down in front of LTM.”
•    “If Distractor tries to steal an idea, you have to give it to him/her – he/she is much too powerful for you!”
•    “If Distractor steals and idea, STM can rewrite it if he/she wants to, or he/she can skip it and move on to the next idea.”
•    “At the end of the game, you will be given a test.”
•    “After I ask each question about the article, LTM will have three chances to find the card that has that information on it.”
•    “STM is not allowed to help.”
•    “It’s possible that LTM won’t even have the answer, since LTM was dependent on STM to write down the correct ideas.”
•    “If LTM picks up the wrong card, he/she should return it face-down to the table.”
•    “If
•    LTM picks up the right card, he/she can put it to the side.  It counts as one point.”
•    “The team with the most points at the end of the test wins.”
•    “What questions do you have?”  (Answer any questions.)
•    “Okay, let’s play!”  (Read the article at a normal pace as the STMs write down the most important parts.  ‘Distractor’ should roam around the pairs stealing ideas when possible but not taking so many that it completely discourages the participants.  When you are done, give the test.  After the test, find out which team has the most points, and award a prize if you wish.  Then, have the participants discuss the following debrief questions in their original groups or in their pairs.  Debrief as a large group.)

o    What made that difficult?
o    How was that like the challenge a learner faces when he/she hears new information?
o    What could we do to help more information move successfully between STM and LTM?

1)    What do shadow puppet craftsmen typically use to smooth out the puppets? (a glass bottle)
2)    What is the Indonesian term for ‘shadow puppets?’ (wayang kulit)
3)    Less expensive puppets that are sold to children during shows are typically made of what? (cardboard)
4)    The Punakawan is a family of characters in Javanese shadow puppets, and they are often referred to as what?  (clown-servants)
5)    What are three sources for the shadow puppet stories? (the Ramayana, the Mahabharata or the Serat Menak)
6)    What tools did shadow puppet theater traditionally use to project and display the image of the puppets? (cotton screen and an oil lamp)
7)    What is the most common light sources used today to project the shadow puppets’ images in Java? (halogen electric lights)
8)    What is the Indonesian word for ‘skin?’  (kulit)
9)    Which city in Central Java is most famous for its style of puppets? (Surakarta or Solo)
10)    Which parts on the shadow puppet typically move? (upper and lower arms)
11)    How long does it take a crew of craftsmen to make ten shadow puppets? (one week)
12)    Puppets are supported with carefully shaped __________ and control rods. (buffalo horn handles)

ARTICLE – “Wayang Kulit”
(Source – Wikipedia)

Wayang kulit, shadow puppets prevalent in Java and Bali in Indonesia, are without a doubt the best known of the Indonesian wayang. Kulit means skin, and refers to the leather construction of the puppets that are carefully chiselled with very fine tools and supported with carefully shaped buffalo horn handles and control rods.

The stories are usually drawn from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata or the Serat Menak.

There is a family of characters in Javanese wayang called Punakawan; they are sometimes referred to as “clown-servants” because they normally are associated with the story’s hero, and provide humorous and philosophical interludes. Semar is the father of Gareng (oldest son), Petruk, and Bagong (youngest son). These characters did not originate in the Hindu epics, but were added later, possibly to introduce mystical aspects of Islam into the Hindu-Javanese stories. They provide something akin to a political cabaret, dealing with gossip and contemporary affairs.

The puppet figures themselves vary from place to place. In Central Java the city of Surakarta (Solo) is most famous and is the most commonly imitated style of puppets. Regional styles of shadow puppets can also be found in West Java, Banyumas, Cirebon, Semarang, and East Java. Bali produces more compact and naturalistic figures, and Lombok has figures representing real people. Often modern-world objects as bicycles, automobiles, airplanes and ships will be added for comic effect, but for the most part the traditional puppet designs have changed little in the last 300 years.

Historically, the performance consisted of shadows cast on a cotton screen and an oil lamp. Today, the source of light used in wayang performance in Java is most often a halogen electric light. Some modern forms of wayang such as Wayang Sandosa created in the Art Academy at Surakarta (STSI) has employed spotlights, colored lights and other innovations.

The handwork involved in making a wayang kulit figure that is suitable for a performance takes several weeks, with the artists working together in groups. They start from master models (typically on paper) which are traced out onto kulit (skin or parchment), providing the figures with an outline and with indications of any holes that will need to be cut (such as for the mouth or eyes). The figures are then smoothed, usually with a glass bottle, and primed. The structure is inspected and eventually the details are worked through. A further smoothing follows before individual painting, which is undertaken by yet another craftsman. Finally, the movable parts (upper arms, lower arms with hands and the associated sticks for manipulation) mounted on the body, which has a central staff by which it is held. A crew makes up to ten figures at a time, typically completing that number over the course of a week.

The painting of less expensive puppets is handled expediently with a spray technique, using templates, and with a different person handling each color. Less expensive puppets, often sold to children during performances, are sometimes made on cardboard instead of leather.

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