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Joseph and His Brothers

Puppet Workshop 

Summary of Lesson Activities:
The children will dig deeper into the story to understand better Joseph and his father and his brothers’ feelings and motivations by using an object theatre puppet show to re-enact the story.

Genesis 37, 39

Memory Verse:
Deuteronomy 7:9

Additional objectives for the Puppet Workshop
At the end of the session, the students will

  • have considered the feelings which may have motivated actions in the story of Joseph and his brothers.
  • have considered how jealousy can separate us from family and friends.

Teacher preparation in advance:

  • Read the scripture passages and lesson plan and attend the Bible Study, ...
  • Practice reading the script with feeling.
  • Prepare a closing prayer.
  • Learn the memory verse and learn the sign language to go with it (attached).
  • Confer with the Shepherd on age level adjustments needed each week (those included in the lesson plan and your own). Consider the “Stretchers” you can use, especially with the youngest children.
  • To our teachers at RCC: The design of this workshop is very intentional. The activities and discussion questions for this workshop were designed to meet the goals of the entire rotation and the educational objectives of the Rotation Model (tm) at River Community Church. While we feel it is important to follow the serendipitous leading of the Holy Spirit, please do not change the lesson plan without consulting a Curriculum Planning and Writing Team member.
  • Check out the room before your first Sunday workshop so that you know where everything is located.
  • The bin with supplies is located in the Sunday School room. Purchase or request additional supplies from -- by January 24.
  • Read about Object Theatre in Puppets, Kids, and Christian Education, especially pages 16-17, 57-58.

Room set-up:
You will need a table for the objects and a table for the “puppet stage.”

Supply List:

  • Picturebook or children’s Bible version of the story. (Use your favorite children’s picture Bible, see the list in the Teachers’ Background or check the public library.)
  • Household objects for Object Theatre: raid the junk drawer and use your imagination. Some ideas to get you started: spoons (wooden, plastic, stainless), plastic knives, cups, pencils, stapler, eraser, tools (hammers, screwdrivers, pliers), keys, batteries, salt and pepper shakers, a piece of colorful fabric, flashlight, bucket, shovel, blocks, cardboard or plastic stars, sticks, cottonballs, small baskets, plastic bottles, spools, dolls’ baby bottle, piece of burlap, ... (Make sure there are several things that you have at least 10 of that can be the brothers.)
  • Flipchart or whiteboard and appropriate markers.
  • Strong rope for tug-of-war warm-up activity.
  • Memento: smile face or emotion stickers.
  • Shepherd Time: blank plain and lined paper for older children; copies of attached form for younger.


Opening- Welcome and Introductions:
Greet the children and introduce yourself. Wear your name-tag. (Remember, you are interacting with a different group of students each week who may not know you.) Make sure the children are wearing name-tags.

We had an opening prayer during the gathering time, but open with prayer if you feel led to do so.

Explain the purpose of this workshop: Today we are going to look at the story of Joseph and his brothers and then re-create it in a new and unusual way. 

Dig-Main Content and Reflection:

Scripture/Bible Story:
Ask the children what they know about Joseph. If it is one of the earlier weeks in the rotation or many of the children are not familiar with the story, read the story of Joseph and his coat first from a picture book or picture Bible such as The Lion Storyteller Bible.

Read the scripture: Genesis 37: 2-11. [Help the children to use their Bibles in looking up verses. Remind them that ‘Genesis’ means ‘beginning’ and it is the first book in the Bible and includes the story of Creation, Noah’s Ark, Abraham, his son Isaac, his grandson Jacob and his great-grandson Joseph, about whom we are studying this rotation. It is in the Old Testament.] [We restate information about Bible organization in each workshop to be sensitive to visitors and new children in the class who may not have any knowledge of the Bible. We never want a child to feel like they do not belong because they do not know this information before they come to class.]

After reading the scripture, ask:

  • What do you think is important in this story?
  • Who are the main characters we will want to include in a puppet show? [List them on a flipchart as the children name them. If they miss some people, don’t worry -- you’ll be adding them later.

Warm-up exercises: Theater Simulation Games: (if time permits)
(adapted from 26 Ways to Use Drama in Teaching the Bible)

Conflict Tug-of-War:
This game will help the students literally feel the tension between Joseph and his brothers.
Choose two children who are about the same size — one represents Joseph and the other represents a brother. Have the two children play a game of tug-of-war and try to pull the other over a center line.
Let several pairs try this (as time permits) and then discuss:
∙ Did this help you relate to the feelings of tension between Joseph and his brothers?
∙ What caused that tension in the Bible story?

Silent Scream:
This game helps the students identify with the fear and horror Joseph felt.
Ask, “How do you think Joseph reacted to being thrown in the pit? Do you think he called his brothers to help him?” [Accept possible answers.]
“When his brothers did not help, maybe he screamed.”
Have the children scream without making a sound. Encourage them to use their entire bodies, not just their faces.
While they are doing this, say, “Scream out loud!” The sound should be deafening and they should dramatically feel the reality of Joseph’s fear. [This scream should be brief. Please be considerate of the other classes. Blink the lights if necessary to bring the class back under control.]

Object Theatre:

Ask, “What is a puppet?”
Accept all answers and then explain, “You have a lot of good ideas. Technically, a puppet is any inanimate (not alive) object that you, the puppeteer, animate — that is, you bring it to life by how you move and manipulate it.”
Pick up a spoon and show how you can make it walk along the tabletop, stop and talk to a screwdriver, and then get angry.

Show the children the collection of objects. Give them a few moments to pick up some and experiment with making them move, talk, hug, be happy, be sad, etc. These puppets have no moving parts, so actions and feelings are conveyed by how fast the objects are moving; how they move (glide, hop, jerk, ...); if they are upright, leaning or lying down; and so on.

Have the children sit down. Leave the objects spread out on the table so they can look at them. Tell the children to listen carefully as you read the script. Say:

  • Check the flipchart as I read to see if there are any missing characters.
  • You will need to decide what characteristics each person in the story has and how those can be symbolized by the objects we have. 
  • For example, think about the 12 brothers — do we have enough information in this story to have them be different objects, or should they all be the same? 
  • [older children only] Also, consider how the dreams can be made to look dreamy. [Perhaps turn off the overhead light and use the flashlight? or maybe everyone can hum ‘dream music’ in the background.]

After you have read the script, add any missing characters to the flipchart list. [You may need to prompt the children, or just add them for the youngest children.]

Tell the children, “You will be doing the casting for our puppet production. That is, you will be deciding how to use the objects on the table to tell the story. You have to agree on which objects to use for each of the characters in the story. You may also use some objects as props and pieces of scenery, but since the puppets do not have hands, we won’t worry about small props like the money the traders used to pay for Joseph. If you work together well, we will have time to do this more than once and you can try different objects in different parts.”

Go through the list on the flipchart and have the children decide which object will be each character and who will be manipulating it. Children can and may need to manipulate more than one character, especially the ten older brothers who will act mostly as a group. Remind the children to put the objects back on the table when they are not being used in a scene and that those not acting in the current scene should sit down and be the audience.

Act out the story:
Read the attached script. The narrator needs to watch the action and pause when appropriate to allow for acting out and improvising the story. The children may add dialog.

If time permits, discuss what can be improved or which objects/characters should be switched, and then do it again. (Trade parts if the children wish to do so.)

Pulling it all together (closing discussion):

  • I wonder why the brothers were angry with Joseph?  
  • Have you ever felt angry at someone because they seemed to be the favorite (of either a parent or teacher)? Can you tell us about it? 
  • How did the brothers feel when Joseph told them about his dream? Do you think Joseph cared about his brothers’ feelings? Do you think he knew how they felt? 
  • Have you ever felt that someone else was your mom or dad’s favorite? How did that make you feel?  
  • What are some things we should never do, no matter how angry we are? [Talk about aggression as an inappropriate way to express anger or jealousy.] 
  • What are some appropriate ways to deal with anger? What good methods have you discovered? 
  • How can God help?

Review the memory verse. Teach the children the memory verse using American Sign language (see attached instructions).

By 11:45 a.m. ask the Shepherd to pass out the journal pages and pencils/markers. Suggestion: You may wish to give the children a sticker to paste in their journal or wear home as a reminder of the story -- maybe smiley or feeling stickers.

Shepherd Time:
Older children:
Think of a time you were jealous of your brother or sister. (If there are children with no brothers and sisters, suggest they think about a time they were jealous of a friend at school, in scouts, on the soccer team, etc. or maybe even a parent who went to Disney World for a conference while he/she stayed home.)

Write about or illustrate one of the following:

  • What should I do if I feel hurt and jealous of my brother or sister or friend?
  • What should I do if I think my brother or sister or friend is jealous or angry at me?

Be as specific as possible. Rather than just write “pray,” maybe you would write “ask God to help me be kind, even if my brother can go to the game and I cannot.”

Younger children:
[adapted from Bible Quest, Fall 2000]
Work with the group to make a list of feelings and different actions to go with the feelings. Write them on the flipchart. (For example, happy: clap hands, angry: cross arms, excited: jump.) Make sure bad feelings such as angry and jealous are included.

Then have the children stand and say, “When we are (feeling) , we (action), and God loves us still.” Go through the list a few times and have the group do the action for each.

After a few rounds, give them the handout and help them copy one feeling/action from the flipchart. If time permits, they can illustrate or decorate the sheet.

This is meant to be a time of reflection and introspection. Writing about faith helps clarify lessons. In addition to the suggested activity, children may draw pictures relating to today’s scripture or memory verse, list highlights of the day’s activities, or rephrase the memory verse. The journal pages will be saved and given to the children at the end of the school year.

You may want to provide an extra activity or worksheet for children who finish their journals quickly, such as coloring sheets, crossword puzzles, word searches, games. See the Teachers’ Background Notes and for ideas.

Before noon, ask the students to stop journaling for a moment and sit quietly for prayer so they can leave when their parents arrive. Allow them to finish journaling afterwards. 


End with a prayer:
Help the children pray for God to help them with family and friend problems.

Tidy and Dismissal:

  • Ask children to help tidy the room. Give any specific instructions for clearing the workshop room.
  • Collect the journal pages before they leave. Make sure their names and the date are on them.
  • Give everyone the parent take-home flyer the first week of the rotation; give it only to children who were absent and have not yet received it the other weeks of the rotation.

Additional Suggestions:
You will need to decide how best to adjust the lesson for older and younger students. Keep the children active and involved in the activity. Do what works for you and the children. Some ideas, in addition to those included in the lesson plan:

Big Classes:

  • Divide the class into three groups: one group will act out the beginning, the second will act out the dreams and Joseph’s telling about the dreams, and the third can do the final portion. Those not “on stage” should sit down and be the audience. Remind them that the audience is important for feedback and encouragement and they should use the same quiet courtesy that they expect when it is their turn to be “on stage.”

Older Children:

  • If someone is a VERY good reader and does not want to do the puppets, let him or her read the narrator’s part.

Younger Children:

  • Leave out the dream part of the script, at least for the first run-through. If interest and time permits, go back and do object theatre for the dreams and Joseph telling his family about the dreams.
  • Consider having a smaller collection of objects for them to use for casting the puppet show.
  • For classes composed primarily of pre-readers, show the children how to find the passage in the Bible and then have them do it. After everyone has found the passage, have them close their Bibles and set them aside to listen while you read.


  • American Sign Language Browser:
  • Costello, Elaine. Religious Signing. New York: Bantam Books, 1986.
  • Hartman, Bob. The Lion Storyteller Bible. Colorado Springs: Lion Publishing, 1995.
  • Hunter, Kurt. Puppets, Kids, and Christian Education. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2001. (Sample plans and info at .)
  • Huntly, Alyson, editor. Bible Quest:
    Fall 2000, Multi-Age (K-8) Leader’s Guide. Session 4: “The Favorite Son Becomes a Slave.” Cleveland: Bible Quest Publishers, 2000.
  • Richards, Larry. Talkable Bible Stories. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1995. (Source for some of the discussion questions and Shepherd Time for older children.)
  • Riekehof, Lottie L. Talk to the Deaf. Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1963.
  • Smith, Judy Gattis. 26 Ways to Use Drama in Teaching the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 1988.
  • Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Joseph and His Brothers

Memory Verse Sign Language

Deuteronomy 7:9 “Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and constantly loves those who love him and obey his commands.” (NLT)

UNDERSTAND (KNOW) The fingertips touch the forehead to indicate that knowledge is in the brain.

LORD The sign KING is made with a L handshape. (Move your hand from the chest to the waist while crossing the body. The movement indicates the location of the royal sash worn by kings.)

GOD The open right hand is raised to the heavens and then downward in a sign of respect.

INDEED (TRULY) The forefinger is upright and moves straight forward from the mouth.

GOD The open right hand is raised to the heavens and then downward in a sign of respect.

FAITHFUL (FAITH) The signs THINK and HOLD are combined. THINK: The index finger touches the forehead which is the location of the mind. HOLD: The hands hold (grip) something.

GOD The open right hand is raised to the heavens and then downward in a sign of respect.

KEEPS One of the signs for HOLD is made with K hand shapes (two fingers on each hand out).

COVENANT** The right hand takes an idea from the head and places it alongside another idea to indicated that they are the same. Formation: Move the extended right index finger from pointing to the right side of the forehead, palm facing in, down and forward to beside the left extended index finger pointing forward in front of the chest, palm down. Same sign for AGREE, AGREEMENT

THOUSAND The fingertips of one hand touch the palm of the other hand. This sign can be done with an M handshape to represent the Roman letter for the numeral one thousand.

GENERATIONS* Both open hands, palms facing back, come down from the right shoulder in a rolling motion.

CONSTANTLY (CONSTANT) The thumb of one A handshape is pressed against the thumb of the other A handshape. The repeated forward motion shows that something is ongoing or constant.

LOVES The hands hug something over the heart to indicate the concept of love.

THOSE The sign THIS is repeated as the hand moves to the side. THIS: the index finger points at something which represents this.

LOVE The hands hug something over the heart to indicate the concept of love.

HIM The pronouns he, she, and it are indicated in signs by pointing to the side or pointing directly to the person or object being referred to. (Point up when ‘him’ is God.)

OBEY The hands are pulled down in a gesture of obedience. (Start with fist near eyes and end with open hands palm up about waist level.)

COMMANDS The forefinger takes a request (order) from the mouth and sends it forth.

Most of these signs are from the American Sign Language Browser: You can see the signs demonstrated there.
* From Talk to the Deaf by Lottie Riekehof.
** From Religious Signing by Elaine Costello.

Joseph and His Brothers

Puppet Narrator's Script

(adapted from Genesis 37 & 39:2, the New Living Translation)
Copyright 2003 Amy Crane. Permission granted to freely distribute and use, provided the copyright message is included.

[Narrator should pause as appropriate to allow students to act out the story with their puppets and improvise dialog.]

This is a story about Jacob’s family.
[Each puppet should bow as he is introduced.]
This is Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebekah, the grandson of Abraham and Sarah.
Jacob had four wives and 12 sons (and also one daughter, Dinah, but she isn’t in this story).
These are the sons of Leah:
Reuben (the oldest),
Issachar, and
The sons of Bilhah:
and Naphtali.
The sons of Zilpah:
and Asher.
And the sons of Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel:
Joseph and

This story takes place when Joseph is seventeen years old. Joseph helped his ten older half-brothers tend his father’s flocks of sheep. (Benjamin did not help, because he was the baby of the family and too young.) Joseph reported to his father the bad things his brothers did. You could say he was a tattletale.

Now Jacob loved Joseph more than all of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age of his beloved wife Rachel. So one day he gave Joseph a special gift — a beautiful robe. It was colorful. It was extravagant. It was not the usual sort of thing that shepherds wear. Joseph wore it everywhere.

Joseph’s brothers hated him because they saw that their father Jacob liked Joseph the best. They did n’t have fancy coats. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.

[Consider leaving out the following section with the youngest children so they don’t get restless.]

One night, Joseph had a dream. He told his brothers about it the minute he woke up the next day.
“Wake up! Listen!” Joseph announced. “I dreamed we were out in the field tying up bundles of grain. My bundle stood up, and then all of your bundles gathered around my bundle and bowed low before it! Isn’t that amazing?”

This dream caused Joseph’s brothers to hate him even more. “So, you are going to be our king, are you?” They taunted him. They were mean. They hated Joseph.

Then, Joseph had another dream, and he told his brothers about it, too. “Hey, everyone, listen to this dream! The sun, the moon and eleven stars bowed low before ME!”

His father heard about this dream, too. Jacob rebuked him, “What do you mean? Will your mother, your brothers, and I actually come and bow before YOU?” But while Joseph’s brothers were jealous, Jacob gave the dream some thought and wondered what it meant.

[resume reading script for younger children here]

Soon after this, Joseph’s older brothers went to pasture their father’s flocks 60 miles away in Shechem. When they had been gone for some time, Jacob said to Joseph, “Go to Shechem to see how your brothers and the flocks are getting along. Then come back and bring me word.”

“I’m ready to go,” said Joseph. He traveled to Shechem from his home in the valley of Hebron.

When he arrived in Shechem, a man noticed him wandering around the countryside in his fine coat. “What are you looking for?” the man asked.

“For my brothers and my father’s flocks. My father Jacob sent me to check on them and report back. Have you seen them?”

“Yes,” said the man. “But they are no longer here. I heard them say they were traveling about 8 miles further up the road from here to Dothan.”

So Joseph traveled on up the road to Dothan to find his brothers.

Joseph’s brothers saw him coming in the distance. They recognized him by the fine coat he was wearing. “Here comes the dreamer! Come on, let’s kill him and throw his body into a deep pit. We can tell Father that a wild animal has eaten him. Then we’ll see what becomes of all his dreams.” [evil laughter]

But Jacob’s oldest son Reuben came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him. Why should we shed his blood? He is our brother, after all. Let’s just throw him alive into a pit and let him die there. That way, he’ll die by starving to death, and we won’t even have to touch him.” (In truth, Reuben was planning to secretly help Joseph escape, and then he would bring Joseph back to his father and earn his father’s pleasure.)

So when Joseph arrived, his brothers pulled off his beautiful robe and threw him into an empty pit. As they were sitting down to eat, they saw a caravan of camels and traders in the distance.

Judah said to the others, “What do we gain by killing our brother? That would just give us a guilty conscience. Let’s sell Joseph to those traders. Then we won’t be responsible at all for his death. After all, he is our brother!”

His brothers agreed. So they pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him for twenty pieces of silver. The traders took him to Egypt.

Joseph’s brothers killed a goat and dipped the beautiful robe in blood. They took the stained robe to their father and asked him to identify it. “We found this in the field, sir. It’s Joseph’s, isn’t it?”

Jacob recognized it at once. “Yes, it is my son’s robe. A wild animal has attacked and eaten him. Surely Joseph has been torn into pieces!”

Then Jacob tore his clothes and put on sackcloth to show he was in great despair. He mourned like this for many days. His family tried to comfort him, but it was no use. “I will die mourning for my son,” he would say, and then begin to weep.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, the traders sold Joseph to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Potiphar was captain of the palace guard.

And the LORD was with Joseph in Egypt and blessed him greatly as he served in the home of his Egyptian master.

A lesson written by Amy Crane from: River Community Church
Prairieville, LA

Copyright 2003 Amy Crane. Permission granted to freely distribute and use, provided the copyright message is included. 

A representative of reformatted this post to improve readability.

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