Reply to "COMPLETE LESSON SET: Joseph's Coat of Many Colors, from FUMC, Ann Arbor, MI"

Joseph’s Coat

Art Workshop

Summary of Lesson Activities: 

Tie-dye a T-shirt. Their own unique shirts will remind students that God is with them always, they are special to him, and His love "covers" them through all situations and circumstances.
Note: Because of time restrictions, only 3rd grade and up came through this workshop. The 1st and 2nd grade made tie-dyed t-shirts as a part of our Joseph in Egypt Rotation (posted as separate set of lessons).

Scripture Reference:

Genesis 37:1-36, 39:1-6b

Key Verse:

“We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him.” Romans 8:28a (CEV)

Workshop Objectives:

  • Identify Genesis as the first book in the Old Testament; locating the story in Genesis
  • Retell the story in their own words – identifying story characters and their feelings.
  • Explain how jealousy erupted in Joseph’s family. Learn how feelings can separate us from family and friends.
  • Learn that each of us is a favorite in the eyes of God.
  • Understand that God loves us and is never separated from us, no matter what happens.

Leader Preparation:

  • Read the scripture for this lesson.
  • Read and reflect on the overview material provided for this lesson.
  • Prepare an opening and/or closing prayer in case you need one.
  • Gather the materials.

Supplies List:

  • Bibles; story paraphrase
  • Sequence story strips (one set for every 3 students) – see end of lesson.
  • Spray Dye Kit (one per 8 –12 students) – includes 3 dyes, spray bottles, soda ash fixer.
  • Large bucket(s) for soaking t-shirts; Table salt (one cup per kit)
  • Disposable latex gloves (one pair per student) – required!
  • Smocks (one per student) – required!
  • Plastic to cover table & masking tape to secure
  • Word puzzles; pencils
  • Permanent markers; Rubber bands; marbles
  • Small plastic zip bags (3) to hold extra powdered dye; Funnel
  • Sample completed t-shirt(s) showing design possibilities
  • White, 100% cotton t-shirts (one per student)
  • Gallon size plastic zipper bags (one per student), with take home directions attached.
  • Empty, clean gallon milk jugs with lids (3)

Before Start of Class:

  • Cover table top with plastic and secure plastic with masking tape. Use both tables for larger classes (more than 10 students).
  • Mix dye: Take tops off of spray bottles in kit. Set these tops aside so they don’t get lost! Pour powdered dye into plastic zip bags. With funnel spoon about half of powdered dye back into bottles. (Use spray bottles from several kits so have enough bottles to share). Fill bottles about halfway with warm water. Replace top and shake to mix. Store the excess dye powders in the zip bags for use in later weeks. [Note: liquid dye can be stored in spray bottles with caps on.]
  • Wearing gloves, fill bucket with at least 1 gallon of water. Stir in soda ash fixer and 1 cup of salt until dissolved. (Avoid inhaling the soda ash powder or splashing solution in eyes.) In subsequent weeks, pour the stored soda ash fixer solution from the milk jugs into the bucket(s).


Opening- Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Greet your students warmly. Introduce yourself and any other adults. Pass around a basket to collect any offering.
[Note: The Shepherd will be taking care of attendance, etc. This can all happen quietly while you are starting your lesson.]

Say: Even though we are in the kitchen, for today this is the Art Workshop. We are learning (continuing to learn) about the Old Testament story of Joseph and his brothers – the part of the story when Joseph gets a special coat. Today we are making special t-shirts. (Show samples.)

Say: Because this is an involved art project, we are going to get started on our project right away. We need to get the shirts ready and while they are soaking we’ll read our Bible story and have prayer time.

Dig- Main Content and Reflection:

  • Write name on label of shirt.
  • Tie t-shirt as desired with rubber bands, etc. Make sure to leave name visible! [Hint: Place the shirt on top of a marble or coin. Twist tightly and secure with a rubber band. Repeat this process all around the shirt with several more marbles or coins – the more you use and the tighter you twist, the more interesting your patterns will be. Students may also elect to do a swirl pattern, which doesn’t require any tying.
  • Give tied t-shirt to an adult. An adult wearing gloves will submerge prepared t-shirts into the fixer solution. (This solution helps the dye bond with the fabric.) They will soak for about 20 minutes.

    If you have students who finish ahead of others, have them work on word puzzles.

Dig In to the Bible:
Distribute Bibles.
Say: We are learning about Joseph and his coat of many colors.
Ask: Where in the Bible would we find this story? (Old Testament, Genesis)

Have the students find the book of Genesis, chapter 37, verse 1, in their Bibles. Make sure it is noted that Genesis is the first book in the Old Testament. (Encourage students to bring their own Bibles.)
[Note: Even though you’ll be reading the story to the students, the exercise of finding the story is still important.]

Say: I bet you already know something about this story. On these strips of paper are events in our story. Working in groups of three, see if you can put these strips or events, in the correct order.

Pass out sets of story sequence strips – one set for every 3 students.
Allow a few minutes for this exercise. (It is ok if they peek in their Bibles!)
Say: Let’s check how you did with the story in the Bible.

Read to them the story from the attached paraphrase.

Ask: Why did Jacob give Joseph a special coat? (to show his love for Joseph)
What about Joseph’s brothers, what were they thinking when Joseph received his special coat? (why didn’t I get one too? Dad likes Joseph best; jealous feelings)

Say: This special gift that Joseph got, but no one else got, was like Jacob saying, “Joseph is special!”
Ask: Did Joseph act like he was a special person?
How did that contribute to the feelings of rivalry in his family?
Do you know anyone who brags about the things they own?
How does this make you feel?

Ask: If we are angry or jealous of someone, does that make us feel close to that person, or separated from that person? (separated)
Say: Feelings of anger or jealousy separate us from family or friends. The good news is that God is never separated from us! God is always close to us. One way we can feel closer to God is through prayer.

Ask: This might seem like an obvious question, but why is it important to pray when we’re feeling separated from family and friends? (God already knows we need his help; prayer is a way we show our trust in God)

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. A suggestion: “Dear God. Thank you for being with us in every situation. Help us not to get jealous or angry when others have things we don’t have. Help us remember your love is always with us. Amen.”

Say: Joseph and his family didn’t deal with their problems, so they became even bigger problems.
Ask: Are there ways to keep feelings like jealousy under control so it doesn’t cause trouble? (talk to an adult about the hard feelings; tell a friend how you are feeling without getting angry; pray for God’s strength to get you through a hard time; read the Bible for reassurance of God’ love for us in all circumstances)

Say: God loves you. Let’s make a special colorful t-shirt. When you wear your shirt you’ll be reminded that God’s love “covers” you through all situations and circumstances. [Note: as you say this last line you may wish to wrap yourself in one of the completed t-shirts.]

Return to Art Project:

  • Have everyone put on gloves and a smock. Everyone must be well covered. Meanwhile an adult with gloves removes the shirts from the fixer solution, wringing them to remove excess solution.
  • Demonstrate how to hold the spray bottle – which way will the spray be coming out?! Teach everyone to hold the spray bottle at a shallow angle to the surface. Students may use as many or as few colors as they like.
  • Have students spray desired colors. After a few sprays, stop and wait a minute (let someone else use the spray bottle). It takes a minute for the color to “ripen” – the fuchsia especially deepens as it stands. Holding the bottle closer creates a more concentrated color; farther away – more subtle.
    [Note: for wrinkle or swirl designs they will need to work the shirt creating wrinkles or swirls before applying dye. See instructions with spray dye kit.]
  • When finished, have each student place his or her dyed shirt in a gallon zip bag. Try to have shirt be placed in bag so name is visible (or write name on zip bag). The shirt must stay in the bag at least 8 hours. (We will ask parents to finish the dyeing process at home. Directions will be attached to each zip bag. For copy of directions, see “Attachments” at end of lesson.)
  • An adult with clean, gloved hands should wipe exterior of zip bags with paper towel to remove any traces of dye.

Have students carefully remove gloves and dispose; Remove smock (folding neatly on cart).

Say: We have learned that anger and jealousy can cause pain. No matter what happens that may separate you from others, we are never separated from God’s love. When you wear your shirt – remember God loves you.

Make sure everyone takes his or her shirt! (Tell them to have parents read the instructions.)

Clean Up:

  • Dump out basins of soapy water.
  • Dispose of plastic table covering.
  • Put tops on spray bottles.
  • Save as much fixer solution as possible by pouring it into the milk jugs. Make sure jugs are labeled.
  • Wipe tables with soapy water.
  • Store supplies on cart.

Story Sequence Strips:

  • Jacob (also called Israel) had lots of sons, but liked Joseph best.
  • Jacob gives Joseph a coat of many colors.
  • Joseph’s brothers are jealous of his beautiful coat.
  • Joseph has dreams about his brothers bowing down to him.
  • Joseph’s brothers took the flock to Shechem.
  • Joseph’s brothers plot to kill Joseph.
  • The brothers throw Joseph into an empty well.
  • Joseph’s brothers sell Joseph into slavery.
  • The brothers tell Jacob that a wild animal killed Joseph.

Take home directions:
To Parents and Guardians of Sunday’s Cool Disciples:
Today your child visited the Art Workshop. We made tie-dyed t-shirts! Ask your child about the Bible story we learned. (Hint: Genesis 37:1-36, Joseph and his multi-colored coat.) In order for your child to finish this project, we need your help. Please follow the instructions below. Remember to wear gloves while handling the shirt or your hands will be multi-colored!

We hope your child enjoys their creation. Each time they wear their shirt, they will be reminded that: They are special to God, God is with them always and God’s love "covers" them through all situations and circumstances.

Washing and Drying Instructions

  • Allow the T-shirt to set in the plastic bag overnight (or at least 8 hours).
  • Put on rubber gloves and rinse the shirt, starting with warm water and then cool, until the water runs clear. Remove any rubber bands during rinsing. This is permanent dye, so be careful not to get any of it on your clothes!
  • Wash the shirt by itself in the washing machine with warm water. It's a good idea to run the washer again with warm water and some soap to make sure that no dye is left in your machine.
  • Hang up the shirt to dry or dry it in the dryer.
  • After your child wears the shirt, wash and dry it separately once more in case the dye is not completely rinsed out.

Story Paraphrase
Genesis 37:1-35

Jacob (who was also called Israel) lived in the land of Canaan. Jacob had many sons (12 in all) but he liked Joseph the best. Because Jacob loved Joseph so much, Jacob made Joseph a coat with many beautiful colors. The coat made Joseph proud. He felt special! But it made his brothers…mad! They hated Joseph. They couldn’t speak one kind word to him.

One night Joseph had a dream. When he told his brothers about it, they hated him even more. “Listen to my dream,” said Joseph. “We were out in the field, tying our bundles of wheat together, when suddenly my bundle rose and stood upright. All of your bundles gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” His brothers said, “do you plan to be king over us?” They didn’t like what Joseph had to say.

Then Joseph had another dream. He told his brothers. “In this dream the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” Joseph's brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept wondering about the dream. What could it mean?

One day when Joseph's brothers had taken the sheep to a pasture near Shechem, Jacob asked Joseph to go check on them. So, Joseph went to find his brothers. His brothers saw him coming—it must have been because of the colorful coat. “Here comes that dreamer,” said his brothers. “Let’s kill him! Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams!” “No, don’t kill him,” Reuben said. “Let’s only throw him into a pit. There’s one over there.” Reuben was thinking that at night he would secretly rescue Joseph.

Joseph came up to his brothers. Before he could even say hello, they grabbed him. They took his multicolored coat and threw him into a pit. Then his brothers sat down to eat their dinner.

As they were eating Judah said, “Look, here come some men on their way to Egypt – Ishmaelite traders. Let’s sell Joseph, then we won’t have to kill him. After all, he is our brother.” So when the traders came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the pit. They sold him for twenty pieces of silver.

Joseph's brothers killed a goat and dipped Joseph's fancy coat in its blood. They took the coat to their father and said, "We found this!” Jacob recognized it. “Joseph must have been killed by a wild animal!” Jacob mourned for Joseph a long time.

Paraphrased from CEV and NIrV Bibles

NOTES:  The Afterglow

The kids loved this workshop. They were so proud to wear their creations!
Some hints - do have a bucket of floor wash material ready - the dye got on the floor - but it washed up fine. Do spread newspaper on the floor around the tables. Do have extra pairs of adult hands.
Another church who did tie-dyed shirts for a VBS, reported to me that they had success doing the soda ash soak ahead of time and then drying the shirts so they were ready for tying and immediate dying


  • Tie-dye instructions:
  • Klusmeyer, Steve and Brenda. “Joseph the Dreamer.” October 2002. (Lesson is no longer at this site.)
  • Tie dye kit: “Rainbow Rock Dye Adventures, Spray Dye Kit” by made Duncan Enterprises 1-800-438-6226 or (comes with 3 colors and supposedly makes 8-12 shirts). Purchased at a Michael’s craft store.

A lesson from First United Methodist Church

Ann Arbor, MI

Copyright 2003 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.

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