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Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet

Drama (Puppet) Workshop

Summary of Lesson Activities:

Children will make puppets and act out the story with them.

For scripture, objectives, and background- see above.


Preparation and Room Set Up:

  • Review the Background Information, Behavioral Covenant, Teaching Tips and Lesson plan.
  • Copy the drama puppet script for Grades 4-6.
  • Gather the supplies to make the puppets.
  • Preview the Rotation Music CD. Play the music as children arrive and during journaling.

Supplies List:

  • Construction paper or craft foamie sheets
  • Poster board (for great fish)
  • Markers
  • Sock (add googly eyes) to make worm puppet
  • Craft sticks
  • Tape


General Tips for Drama Workshop Facilitators

  • You may wish to organize costumes or puppets ahead of time to cut down on a flurry of activity and possible hurt feelings. Have props ready ahead of time. This is especially important for the younger children. The older children often are very creative with props and costumes.
  • You will want to limit the amount of time the children are allowed to dress-up. (They can easily spend the entire class time selecting costumes!)
  • Be sure that all children are involved in some way. Some children are intimidated by the prospect of being on a stage. Offer them alternative roles as well as the children who do not have main parts. They can always be “sound effects” or “crowds” or stagehands to help change scenery, or video camera operators (for the older children). Remember as well that children can draw the backdrop for the drama on the blackboard or videotape the plays (older children).
  • To eliminate competition, you may wish to place the names of characters in a hat and have children choose their parts.
  • Be sure to explain the activity to the children and ask for questions.
  • Even though videotaping the activities may seem unnecessary, videotaping seems to encourage better behavior from the children.
  • Have fun and make this fun for the children!
  • The purpose of the drama workshop is not to create a polished performance. Through the activity, children will explore the story in depth. Feel free to pause and discuss details as they arise, add more information (using the Background information and resources) and answer questions along the way. 

Time Guidelines:
Welcome and Introductions 5 minutes
Bible Study 10 minutes
Jonah’s Fishy Adventure 30 minutes
Reflection/Closing 5 minutes



Presentation

Early Arrival Activity:

Have children begin work on the puppets as they arrive.

Opening-Welcome/Introduction:

Welcome the children and introduce yourself. Make sure everyone is wearing a nametag. Please include the shepherd in introductions. Give the children a simple one or two-sentence synopsis of the day’s activity.

Prayer: Please begin your class with prayer each week. Pray your own or use the prayer printed below.
Dear God, Thank you for this day and for everyone who is here today. Be with us now as we learn about another of your prophets, Jonah. AMEN.

Dig-Main Content and Reflection:

Important Teacher Notes:
Each workshop includes the Bible story. One of our primary goals is to improve the children’s Bible literacy! If children did not bring their Bibles from home, use the classroom Bibles. Shepherds should help the children locate the stories. Use the handout “Helping Children Learn to Use their Bibles” and the Background Information to help you introduce the story.

Remember that as the rotation progresses; the children will become more familiar with the story. When this happens, allow the children to tell you what they know. The children should still locate the story in their Bibles every week. Use the bold headings in their Bibles to guide your discussion. You may want to review some of the Bible notes as well. Be sure to fill in any missing information and add additional details using the Background Information to help you. One of the greatest advantages of this model is that children who come regularly learn the story in great depth.

Each lesson contains more Background Information and discussion questions than can be used in one session. Remember, children are studying this story for four weeks! Be sure to follow the time guidelines and leave ample time for the activity.

Jonah Story Cards
The Jonah Story cards (see attached) can be used as a visual reminder of the different events of Jonah’s story. Several key cards from Elijah (previous rotation) are also included for review. Prepare the cards by enlarging the appropriate images from the Blankenbaker book and copying onto cardstock.
Introduce the Story:
We’ve been studying prophets this summer. What is a prophet? (God’s messenger, someone very close to God) Last month we talked about the prophet Elijah. Let’s review some of what we have learned. (Use the Prophet Story Cards to review key events in Elijah’s story:
1. Samuel anoints the first king of Israel.
2. Israel worships idols.
3. Israel is divided into two kingdoms (northern – Israel, southern Judah)
4. Israel has good and bad kings.
5. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel worship idols.
6. Elijah confronts King Ahab.
7. Elijah has a contest on Mt. Carmel.
8. God sends Elisha to help Elijah.

Many years passed. God raised up another prophet for the northern kingdom of Israel. This prophet’s name was Jonah. Now at that time Assyria was a very powerful nation. They had strong armies who tried to take over lands and people. The people of Israel worried that the Assyrian army would take over their land too. The capital city of Assyria was called Ninevah. It was a huge city with great walls surrounding it. The people in Ninevah did not worship the one, true God. So, the people of Israel looked down on the people of Ninevah. They thought they were better than them. They also didn’t like them because the Assyrian army was very cruel. The people of Ninevah were their enemies.

But, God wanted to teach his people a lesson. And so he called a new prophet, named Jonah to show his people that God loves everyone – no matter where they live or what they do. Let’s find out more about the story now.

Bible Study: Grades K-3
Where would we find a story in the Bible that takes place many years before Jesus was born? (Old Testament) Let’s find the story of Jonah in our Bibles now. Help the children locate “Jonah and the Fish,” page 273-276 in the Little Kids’ Adventure Bible. Read or paraphrase the story as the children follow along in their Bibles (or use the attached excerpt from the Children’s Illustrated Bible). Be sure to point out the bold headings. Rising Kindergarteners have just received their Bibles and will need lots of help using them. Have shepherds help them and consider pairing older children with the younger ones. Use the Jonah Story Cards to help tell the story.

Help the children locate and review the following Bible notes:

Little Kids’ Adventure Bible:
Life in Bible Times: Jonah’s Trip, page 273
Life in Bible Times: Cargo Ships, page 274

Memory Verse:

Each rotation we encourage the children to memorize one verse. Locate the verse and review with the children at this time. Have children with Bible bookmarks place their red ribbon bookmark here. Children with their own Bibles should highlight the verse with the Bible highlighters. Please do not mark in the classroom Bibles.
“When I was in trouble, I called out to you. And you answered me.” Jonah 2:2 (page 275)

Reflect:

  • What is a prophet? (someone who speaks for God, God’s messenger)
  • What did God tell Jonah to do? (go to Ninevah to preach to the people there)
  • Why did Jonah run away? (he didn’t want to do what God asked)
  • How did Jonah feel about the people of Ninevah? (didn’t like them, they were his enemies)
  • How did God feel about the people of Ninevah? (loved them, wanted to save them)
  • What happened to Jonah? (thrown overboard, swallowed by giant fish)
  • I wonder what Jonah thought about while inside that great fish?
  • What did Jonah do inside the fish? (prayed in thanksgiving to God, promised to obey)
  • What happened after Jonah preached in Ninevah? (people repented, God showed them mercy)
  • How did Jonah feel about that? (angry)
  • What can we learn about God from this story? (God loves everyone, grace, mercy, forgiveness)
  • How do we show forgiveness in our lives?
  • How do we tell others about the good news of God’s grace and love?
  • How can we change our attitude toward others who are different than us or who are not easy to love?

Bible Study: Grades 4-6
Jonah lived about 700 years many years before Jesus was born. Where would we find the story of Jonah in the Bible? (Old Testament) Jonah is one of the minor prophets. This means that his book is a short book of prophecy. Long books of prophecy are called major prophets. Let’s find the story of Jonah in our Bibles now. Help the children locate Jonah in their Bibles. Children with Bible bookmarks can use their green ribbon bookmark to locate the books of prophecy and move forward from there.

This book is too long to be read in its entirety. Paraphrase the scripture using the bold headings to direct the children to the different parts of Jonah’s story. Basically there are four key parts:
1. God calls Jonah; Jonah disobeys.
2. Jonah submits.
3. Jonah completes his mission.
4. Jonah’s motives are contrasted with God’s motives.

Read and discuss the following Bible notes:
NiRV Adventure Bible:
LIfe in Bible Times: Jonah’s Trip, page 1073
Life in Bible Times: Cargo Ships, page 1074
Let’s Live It: Jonah’s Vine, page 1075

Memory Verse:

Each rotation we encourage the children to memorize one verse. Locate the verse and review with the children at this time. Have children with their own Bibles highlight the verse with the Bible highlighters.
“When I was in trouble, I called out to you. And you answered me.” Jonah 2:2

Discussion Questions:

  • What is a prophet? (someone who speaks for God, God’s messenger)
  • What did God tell Jonah to do? (go to Ninevah to preach to the people there)
  • Why did Jonah run away? (he didn’t want to do what God asked)
  • How did Jonah feel about the people of Ninevah? (didn’t like them, they were his enemies)
  • How did God feel about the people of Ninevah? (loved them, wanted to save them)
  • What happened to Jonah? (thrown overboard, swallowed by giant fish)
  • I wonder what Jonah thought about while inside that great fish?
  • What did Jonah do inside the fish? (prayed in thanksgiving to God, promised to obey)
  • What happened after Jonah preached in Ninevah? (people repented, God showed them mercy)
  • How did Jonah feel about that? (angry)
  • What can we learn about God from this story? (God loves everyone, grace, mercy, forgiveness)
  • How do we show forgiveness in our lives?
  • How do we tell others about the good news of God’s grace and love?
  • How can we change our attitude toward others who are different than us or who are not easy to love?


Jonah’s Fishy Adventure
(Adapted from a puppet activity and script written by Amy Crane and previously posted at rotation-org called, “Jonah Puppet Lesson Plan: Runaway Jonah.” 2001)

Supplies:

  • Construction paper or craft foamie sheets
  • Poster board (for great fish)
  • Markers
  • Sock (add googly eyes) to make worm puppet
  • Craft sticks
  • Tape


Advanced Preparation:

  1. Gather props and puppets.
  2. Preview script (attached at end of lesson)
  3. Copy script for Narrator.
  4. Gather supplies to make stick puppets of cats, dogs, cows, sea creatures and a vine or tree. Use construction paper and markers and then tape to craft sticks. Make a worm puppet out of a sock. Make a large fish (big enough to “swallow” Jonah).
  5. Use the cardboard boat in the classroom for the boat. Children can crouch behind the boat inside the puppet theatre or use the stage in the classroom. 


Characters (puppets):
God (narrator)
Jonah
King of Ninevah
Repentant people
Sailors

Props:
Cardboard boat
Blue fabric (~2 yards to serve as “waves"

Stick Puppets (created by children):
Cats, dogs, sheep, goats, large fish (big enough to “swallow” Jonah), worm, tree

Directions:

  1. Gather children together and explain the activity.
  2. Help children make the stick puppets from the construction paper and poster board.
  3. Assign parts. Teacher or older student can read the narration of the script (written from God’s perspective).
  4. Be sure to pause often in the drama allowing children to act out the story and insert their own dialogue. Encourage them to be creative. The purpose is not to have a polished performance; it is to help the children explore the events of the story and the emotions and actions of the characters.
  5. If time allows, perform the drama more than once, allowing children to switch roles.


Reflection after the Drama:

  • Were you surprised that the people of Ninevah responded to Jonah’s message?
  • I wonder if Jonah was surprised….
  • What do you think about Jonah disobeying God?
  • What do you think about God giving Jonah a second chance?
  • What do you think God was trying to tell Jonah (and US) at the end of the story? 


Modifications for Younger Children:
Teacher will be the narrator. Have the shepherd help direct the children to act out the actions. Simplify the dialogue and have children echo it back to the narrator.

Reflection/Journal Time:
The last 10 minutes should be reserved for Journal and Reflection time. This is an opportunity for processing and reflection about what the children have learned. Ask the shepherds to pass out the journals and pencils/pens and the journal sticker for the day. (Note: Journal questions are color-coded for each age group – purple for K-3 and blue for 4-6.) Workshop leaders and shepherds should sit down with children in small groups to facilitate discussion and writing in Faith Journals. Memory verse stickers are also included for each lesson. Children may also copy the memory verse and illustrate.

Journal Questions:
Grades K-3: Draw a picture of Jonah inside the fish. What was he doing?
Grades 2-5: How was Jonah similar to Elijah? Different?

Closing:

Gather the children together in a circle. Review with them one word or concept that they learned during today’s session. (obedience, repentance, love, mercy, are some suggestions) Encourage them to come back next week and to bring a friend, especially a friend who does not have a church home. Remind them to bring their Bibles. Ask for prayer requests and close with prayer. Perhaps one of the children would like to pray? Or ask the children to pray out loud or silently one at a time. Have them say “Amen” when they are finished so the next child can pray.

Clean-up: Encourage the children to help you clean up. Place all props and other materials in the prop closet or the storage cabinet.

Release children only to parents or by prior permission of parents after signing out on class clipboards.


 

Jonah’s Fishy Adventure
(Adapted from a puppet activity and script written by Amy Crane and previously posted at rotation-org called, “Jonah Puppet Lesson Plan: Runaway Jonah.” 2001)

[Bracketed statements in italics are suggestions for puppet play action. Reader should pause to allow plenty of time for children to act out the narration and add dialogue.]

Let me tell you about Jonah. He is one of the people I called to be a prophet, to be my messenger to share my word with the world.

Jonah is good and true and faithful. Be he can also be a bit stubborn. One day I told him to go to Ninevah. It was a large city, the capital of Assyria. But it was full of evil. I told Jonah to go there and tell the people that I was angry because they were behaving so wickedly.

Do you think Jonah hopped up and headed to Ninevah to do what I asked? No, not Jonah. He ran away. He actually headed in the opposite direction – to Tarshish in Spain!

[Place the cardboard boat with the puppets behind it so they appear to be onboard the ship. Puppets act out Jonah deciding to make a run for it and head to Spain. Rock the boat to show the storm. Add blue fabric “waves.”]

I sent a great wind! The ship was tossed and rocked by the storm. The sailors were terrified and prayed to all sorts of gods (but not to me.)

[Puppets act scared. Start praying. Jonah is sleeping in the bottom of the boat.]

Finally someone found Jonah sound asleep. Jonah confessed that he was running away from me, the one true God who made land and sea.

[Act it out]

Jonah told them to throw him overboard and then the storm would stop. But the sailors didn’t want to hurt Jonah. They tried to row the boat through the storm, but it was too hard for them. Finally, they picked up Jonah and threw him out of the boat. Immediately, the wind stopped and the sea grew calm. The sailors were amazed at my power. They promised to worship me and serve me!

[Act it out]

Jonah sank down into the sea. Seaweed caught him and pulled him down deep. I sent a great fish to swallow Jonah. For three days and nights he stayed inside the belly of that smelly fish. He sang and prayed. He asked me to be with him. He thanked me for saving me – “When I was in trouble I called out to you and you answered me.”

After three days, I ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto dry land. And it did.

[Jonah leaves fish. Reacts to being on land again]

Once again I spoke to Jonah. “Go to Ninevah. Proclaim the message I have given you.”

This time Jonah obeyed.

[Act it out. Jonah goes through town yelling, “In forty days Ninevah will be destroyed!”]

The people of Ninevah believed Jonah’s message. They tore their clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes to show how sorry they were. The king repented too. He commanded that everyone – people and animals should fast to show that they were truly sorry.

[People and animals – stick puppets – run around apologizing. King commands that everyone must behave from now on.]

I saw that the people were truly sorry for what they had done. I saw that they had repented – turned away from their evil ways. So I did not punish them.

Jonah wasn’t very happy about this. In fact he was downright angry!

[Jonah yells at God, saying he knew God would forgive everyone because God is patient, gently, kind, loving, merciful, forgiving, etc. Jonah stomps off, saying he is better off dead. He goes to edge of town and sits down to wait]

Jonah ran away again. He sat down and waited. He wanted to see if I would destroy the city of Ninevah. I sent a vine to grow up to shade Jonah from the hot sun.

[Tree pops up. Jonah is happy to have it.]

The next day I sent a worm to eat the vine.

[Worm chews tree and it disappears. Jonah complains about missing the shade and again wishing he were dead.]

“What right do you have to be angry,” I asked Jonah.

[Jonah continues to grumble and pout and wish he were dead.]

So, patiently, I explained to Jonah:
“Why are you complaining about this tree?
In one day I made it grow up.
In the next day I made it die.
Did you do anything to help it live or die? So why should you feel sorry for it?
And as for the people of Ninevah…. I made them too: the grownups, the children, the animals. And I love them. Shouldn’t I be able to forgive them if I want?”


 

A lesson from State Street UMC G.R.E.A.T. Adventure

A representative of Rotation.org reformatted this post to improve readability.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

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