The Ten Commandments
Summary of Lesson Activities:
Enact a drama that is script-less of the story of The Ten Commandments: the Law Is Given and Forgotten (story of Moses on Mount Sinai and the subsequent episode with the golden calf). [Note: 1st – 3rd graders visited this workshop.]
WARNING: this workshop takes a lot of work to prepare! Ask folks to help out.
For Scripture and Lesson Objectives, see above.
- Read the scripture for this lesson.
- Read and reflect on the overview material provided for this lesson.
- Gather the materials.
- Make a golden calf. Take a medium sized piñata and “shave” off (rip off) the tissue paper covering. Spray paint it gold. Before painting cover the bottoms of the legs so that the hoofs stayed black (assuming that they are black!) and the head so that the eyes and nose stayed intact.
- Create a music CD. Give this project to someone who loves music and has a large collection of CD’s. Ask them to pick out music to match each of the moods in the story. For a list of the music that we used see the Resources section of this lesson.
- Create broken tablets. To make ours, I cut a double-tablet shape from ½ inch Styrofoam insulation board. I then broke/cut the piece in-half in a jagged way but so that it could be held in such a way to look like a solid, unbroken tablet. (But would instantly "break" at a key point in the story.) Then I painted it with a coat of acrylic paint, using grey, white, black and dark blue paint, kind of semi-mixed to give the piece depth. I scratched what looked like Hebrew lettering in the tablets.
- CD player
- CD of background music to play during the drama
- A stopwatch to time scenes
- Read with Me Bible (for 1st and 2nd graders)
- For 3rd graders: purple Adventure Bibles
- Props in labeled tubs (corresponding to scenes):
Tub #1: baskets, sacks (traveling “luggage")
Tub #2: gold scarves or fabric, gold garland, large black bucket
Tub #3: black scarves or fabric
Tub #4: multi-colored scarves or fabric
- Other props for Leader to use:
Broken tablets that can appear as whole
Gather everyone in the storytelling tent. Greet your students warmly, welcoming them to the Drama Workshop. Introduce yourself and any other adults.
[Note: The Shepherd will be taking care of attendance, nametags, and any visitor cards]
Say: Today we’ll be acting out a story about the Ten Commandments, but first let’s begin with prayer.
Ask for any prayer requests. Ask if anyone would like to lead the group in prayer. Be prepared to say a prayer yourself, working in prayer requests. Use the Lord’s Prayer as the ending. A suggestion: “Dear God. Thank you for giving us the Ten Commandments, so that we know how you want us to live our lives. Help us each day to follow your ways. (End with the Lord’s Prayer) Amen.”
- What kind of rules do you have at your house? (allow a few answers)
- Who makes most of the rules at home?
- Why do parents have rules? (because they love us, because rules make life easier)
- What happens when you don’t obey the rules?
- Do parents still love you if you break the rules? (yes!)
Say: A long time ago, God gave the Israelites rules for the very same reason your parents make rules for you. God loved the Israelites so much that God wanted to be a part of their lives. God gave Moses, the leader of the Israelites, rules called the Ten Commandments.
Ask: Where do we find the Ten Commandments in the Bible? (in Exodus, the second book of the Old Testament)
Say: The book of Exodus includes a list of the Ten Commandments, as well as the story of how Moses received the law. The interesting part of the story is that Moses had only just gotten the Ten Commandments and right away God had to show that he still loved the people and would forgive them, even when they broke the rules – because they were really breaking the rules! Before we read in the Bible about what happened, let’s do a bit of review.
Use pictures in the Read with Me Bible to help review. Page numbers to show the students are in brackets [ ].
Say:  Abraham’s descendants were slaves in Egypt.
Ask:  Who was going to lead the people out of Egypt? (Moses)
When he was a baby?
Say:  No, when he grew up he led the people to freedom from their life as slaves in Egypt.
Ask:  Remember how they crossed the Red Sea?
Say:  About three months after the people cross the Red Sea they reach Mount Sinai. Moses goes up the mountain to talk to God. He leaves his brother Aaron, in charge of the people waiting at the base of the mountain.
Let’s read what happens next.
For 3rd grade and up:
Distribute Bibles (purple Adventure Bibles).
Have the kids find Exodus, chapter 32.
Say: Moses has gone up Mount Sinai to get the Ten Commandments from God. The people are waiting at the bottom of the mountain with Moses’ brother Aaron in charge.
Ask the students to follow along, as you read to them.
Read Exodus, chapter 32, verses 1–4.
Point out the picture of the golden calf at the bottom of the page.
Read Exodus 32: 5-7, and 15–16, and 19–20.
For 1st and 2nd grade:
Read the story on pages 135 – 139 in the Read with Me Bible.
For all students:
Say: Are you ready to act out this story? Let’s move out into an open area of the room.
Say: As we act out this story, you won’t need any scripts; just follow my lead. Let’s start with some warm-up exercises.
- Pretend you are Moses carrying the tablets. (Are they heavy?)
- Pretend you are dancing around a golden calf.
- Now let’s practice being the people grumbling: “where’s Moses?”
- And practice saying: “we will do everything that the Lord has said.”
Ask: Where is this story taking place? (the Israelites’ camp at the foot of Mount Sinai)
Where should we say is the foot of the mountain? (an open area of the room)
Who are some of the characters in the story? (Moses, God, Israelites, Aaron)
Where is “up on the mountain” where Moses is? (in the tent)
Say: We will now enact our story about the golden calf. There will be background music to set the mood for each scene.
[For your actual lesson, skip to “Scene 1, Act 1” shown in bold below. This is just a summary of the scenes.]
Scene Summary –
Note: times shown below for music indicate how long a song is. You’ll want to
finish a scene or act before a song is up, i.e. in the time shown. However, it
is more likely you’ll move to the next scene before a song is finished.
(Just skip to next track on CD.) Use your judgment as to how timing is going.
Scene 1: Act 1: Israelites traveling to get to Mount Sinai.
Act 2: God speaks. Moses goes up the mountain.
Scene 2: Israelites wait for Moses, and wait, and get worried. Create golden
Scene 3: God is angry. Moses breaks tablets. Israelites ask for forgiveness.
Scene 4: God forgives the Israelites. People praise God and celebrate the 10 C.
Scene 1, Act 1:
Start CD at track 1. Music playing is Bach. Total running time is 7:23.
Say: For this first scene you may use anything you want to from box #1. You will be the Israelites traveling through the desert.
Encourage kids to “travel” in this portion of the room.
Say: Long, long ago, before the time of Jesus, the descendants of Abraham – the Israelites – were slaves in Egypt. God heard the Israelites cry out for help. God called upon Moses to lead the Israelites to freedom. It was quite an adventure story. Moses and his brother Aaron were finally able to help the Israelites escape, through the Red Sea, and into the desert. But, there was much more traveling. And soon there was grumbling.
Allow kids to “travel” around the room, grumbling “Are we there yet?”
Say: After three months of wandering in the desert, the Israelites arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai, and made camp.
Allow more “acting.”
God told Moses what to say to the people. God said, “You saw what I, the Lord, did to the Egyptians. You saw how I cared for you as an eagle takes care of her young. Now, if you obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my chosen people.”
And the people answered together, saying, “We will do everything that the Lord has said.”
Encourage everyone to repeat, “We will do everything that the Lord has said.”
Scene 1, Act 2:
Jump to tract 2 on CD. Music playing is “Lawrence of Arabia Overture.” Length: 3:44.
Say: The mountain was covered in a thick cloud. There was thunder and lightning. The people trembled with fear.
Encourage kids to show fear. Point at “the mountain.” Clash the cymbals for thunder.
Say: God called Moses to come to the top of the mountain.
Assign someone to be Moses and to wave goodbye as they go up the “mountain.”
Say: Up on the mountain, God spoke to Moses, saying: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, where you were slaves.
Do not worship any god but me.
You must not worship images, or bow down to idols.
Do not misuse my name.
Remember the Sabbath day.
Respect your father and mother.
Do not murder.
Do not commit adultery.
Do not steal.
Do not tell lies.
Do not long for what belongs to someone else.
Say: The Lord gave Moses these ten laws. Moses told the people all of the Lord’s commands. They said, “We will do everything that the Lord has said.”
Encourage everyone to repeat, “We will do everything that the Lord has said.”
Jump to tract 3 on CD. Music is loud at first so turn sound lower for about first 25 sec.
Music playing is “O Fortuna” Length: 5:19
Say: Moses has gone back up the mountain. It has been 40 days and 40 nights since Moses left. The people get restless and worry. “Where is Moses?”
Encourage everyone to repeat, “Where is Moses?”
Say: When the Israelites saw that Moses had not come down from the mountain, they were afraid. They turned to Aaron.
Designate someone to be Aaron.
Say: It’s been forty days! We do not know what happened to this Moses. What if he never returns? Who will lead us?
Have everyone grumble, “What if he doesn’t come back? Who will lead us?”
Say: Now you may use anything you want from box #2.
Allow everyone a chance to gather items from box #2.
Say: The people said to Aaron, “You must make a god to lead us.”
And Aaron answered, “Bring me your gold jewelry.”
Say: And Aaron melted their gold jewelry, and made a golden calf.
Allow kids to act the scene. Produce the golden calf at the appropriate moment.
Say: And the people said, “This is our god now!” They made offerings to the calf, bowing down to it. They had a great celebration while they sang and danced around the golden calf.
Allow kids to act the scene. When music reaches a 2nd frenzied peak, clash the cymbals. Stop CD or turn down sound. [This 2nd peak will start at 3:10, ends at 3:23. If you miss that there’s a third peak ending at 4:17.]
Say: Now you may use whatever you want from box #3.
Jump to tract 4 on CD. Music playing is “The Death of Timmons.” Length: 2:25.
Say: Meanwhile, up on the mountain, God is angry. The Lord said to Moses, “Your people have rejected me. They have made a gold calf, and are worshiping it! Don’t try to stop me, for I am angry.”
Allow everyone to act fearful. God is angry for their bad choices!
After 50 seconds from start of track 4…
Say: Moses pleaded with the Lord, “Do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your promise to Abraham, that you would give him as many descendants as the stars in the sky.”
So God did not destroy the Israelites. He forgave them. And Moses went down the mountain, carrying the two stone tablets with the commandments written on them.
Give “Moses” the broken tablet pieces, pretending they are whole.
1:30 min. into song…
Say: When Moses came close enough to the camp to see the gold calf and hear the singing and see the dancing, he became furious! There, at the foot of the mountain, he threw down the tablets he was carrying, and broke them.
Have Moses “break” the tablets”
Say: Moses took the gold calf and melted it.
Have Moses take away the golden calf.
Say: The people were sad for their bad choices and they asked for forgiveness.
Allow everyone to act sad, remorseful. If song is close to be done (2:20) stop CD.
Jump to tract 5 on CD. Music playing is “I Will Follow Him” from the movie Sister Act. Length: 3:14.
Start with music playing softly.
Say: The next day, Moses said to the people, “You have committed a terrible sin. But now I will go up the mountain to the Lord; maybe I can get him to forgive your sins.” Moses went to the Lord.
Say: Now you may use whatever you want from box #4.
Pause the CD while choosing is happening.
At 1:00 minute into the song Say: The Lord forgave His people. God again wrote the commandments on two stone tablets. The covenant was renewed with the Israelites, God’s chosen people. The people were very thankful for God’s forgiveness. They promised to follow God.
Turn up sound on CD. Allow kids to dance about, showing thanks for God’s forgiveness.
Gather the students back under the tent.
Ask: Which commandment did the Israelites break when they made the calf? (1 & 2)
I wonder why Aaron helped them?
Are the Ten Commandments still important today?
Say: The Ten Commandments are still important today. They tell us how to love God.
- What is the first commandment? (Keep God as #1 in your life)
- What are difficulties you might encounter with keeping commandment number one?
- What is the second commandment? (do not make statues of gods – worship only God)
- What are difficulties you might encounter with keeping commandment number two?
- Is it possible for us to always follow all of the commandments? (no)
- What should we do when we break a commandment? (ask for forgiveness from God)
Say: God loves you. He wants to be a part of your life. He always offers us another chance when we mess up. God gave us the Ten Commandments to show us how to worship God and how to get along with other people. Obeying God’s commands shows that we love God.
- Crane, Amy. “The Ten Commandments: the Law Is Given and Forgotten: A creative dramatics exploration of God’s forgiving love and grace.” 2001.
- “The Great Escape: Exodus & the Ten Commandments: Moving to the Bible Activity.” Bloomington, IL: Potter’s Workshops, 2001. (Used some of their music suggestions. I participated in a workshop at the annual conference in Chicago in 2002 in which this workshop was explored. Copies of this workshop were not passed out so I haven’t broken copyright, just made use of a great idea!)
- Read With Me Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993.
CD information: Here is what I used (based mostly on what I could get my hands on)
- 1 Bach’s “Erbarme Dich” from “St. Matthew Passion” from the album Classic Yo-Yo - track 11. (about 7 minutes long).
- 2 “Lawrence Of Arabia Overture” John Williams & London Symphony, from the album The Hollywood Sound. (3:44 minutes long)
- 3 “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi: I. O Fortuna” from the opera Carmina Burana, composed by Carl Orff. (about 5 minutes)
- 4 “The death of Timmons” from the soundtrack of the movie Dances With Wolves. (2:25 minutes long)
- 5 “I Will Follow Him” by Lauryn Hill, from the soundtrack of the movie Sister Act. (about 3 minutes long).
Tips for the Story Telling while kids create drama:
- This type of drama – your telling the story while kids act it out – allows kids to concentrate on what’s happening in the story: the actions and the emotions. It frees them from having to read (and worry about whether they’re getting the words right).
- The success of this hinges on your involvement – prompt the kids by getting involved with the actions. Bring the story to life with your movement and emotions as well as the words. Cower along with the people when there is thunder on the mountain. Take a few steps and wave an imaginary tambourine when the people dance around the calf. Get angry right along with Moses and stomp your feet.
- Remember that there is no right or wrong way to act this out.
- When speaking for God, hold yourself erect and tall and speak in a “godly” voice.
- Use your best (worst?) whinny “Mommy, I’m hungry!” voice for the Israelites complaining while waiting for Moses. Invite your listeners to grumble along with the Israelites.
- When telling the story, look up and make eye contact and interact with your listeners while you are reading, which will help bring the story to life for them.
A lesson written by Carol Hulbert for First United Methodist Church
Ann Arbor, MI
Copyright 2008 First United Methodist Church, Ann Arbor, MI.
Permission to copy materials granted for non-commercial use provided credit is given and all cited references remain with this material
A representative of Rotation.org reformatted this post to improve readability.