This topic is for posting Drama and Puppet Workshop lessons and ideas for teaching Jonah.
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The following script was written for use with shadow puppets. Use and construction of shadow puppets is explained in detail in the book "Puppets, Kids, and Christian Education" by Kurt Hunter.
Jonah - Shadow Puppets Drama
For use on a 2 foot by 3 foot shadow screen.
Jonah and the Big Fish
© 2001 Kurt Hunter
Scenery - Nineveh on the hill
Puppets - Jonah (facing away from Nineveh)
This is the story of a man named Jonah. One day, God spoke to Jonah. “Go to Nineveh and preach to the people. Tell them to stop the evil they are doing.” But Jonah didn’t go to Nineveh. He ran as fast as he could in the opposite direction.
Scenery – Sea
Puppets – Boat, Jonah, people, clouds, big fish
Jonah ran down to the sea. He got on a boat and paid his money to be taken far away. Jonah went into the bottom of the boat and went to sleep.
The boat sailed out onto the sea, but dark clouds filled the sky. It was a terrible storm. There was lightning and terrible winds. It looked like the boat would sink. All the people on the boat prayed to their gods, but the storm just got worse.
The people found Jonah and woke him up. “Pray to your god”, the people said. “I am Hebrew”, said Jonah, “and I worship the God who made the land and sea. Throw me into the sea and the storm will stop.”
The people were afraid. They didn’t want to hurt Jonah. But the storm got worse and worse. The people prayed to God. “Please don’t blame us for the death of this man. You are God and you know what is best.” They threw Jonah into the sea and immediately the storm stopped. The sea was calm and the boat sailed away.
Jonah was sure that he would drown, but God sent a big fish that swallowed Jonah and kept him alive. Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.
From inside the fish, Jonah prayed to God. “I was in trouble and God saved me. I will worship only the one true God with great thanksgiving. I will do what God commands. Salvation comes from God.”
God spoke to the fish and it spit Jonah onto the seashore.
Scenery – None
Puppets – Jonah, old man, woman, child, king, king’s crown, people praying (king, old man, woman, child)
God spoke again to Jonah. “Go to Nineveh and preach the message that I will give you.” Jonah went to Nineveh and he preached to all the people, young and old, men and women.
“In forty days, Nineveh will be destroyed, unless you stop your evil, violent ways and ask God for forgiveness.” All the people heard Jonah and they believed him. Even the king, threw off his crown.
The king issued a decree that all the people would turn away from evil, go on a fast and pray to God. All the people got on their knees and prayed to God. God heard their prayers and had compassion on them. God did not destroy Nineveh.
Scenery – Nineveh on the hill, Jonah’s shelter
Puppets – Jonah (that can sit), vine, sun, worm
Jonah left Nineveh and was very mad. “Why did I come all the way to Nineveh? I knew that God would forgive the people if they changed their ways and asked for forgiveness. If you won’t kill them, God, then kill me. I’m better off dead.”
But God answered, “What do you have to be angry about?”
Jonah sat in a little shelter that he made and watched to see what would happen to Nineveh.
God made a vine grow up over the shelter to shade Jonah. Jonah was happy with the vine and enjoyed the shade.
But God sent a worm that chewed into the vine. By the next morning, the vine had withered away. The hot sun beat down on Jonah.
Jonah was very upset. But God said, “Why are you upset about this vine? You didn’t plant it or water it, but you still cared about it. I have compassion for all of my creation, for all the people of Nineveh and for you.”
"Wrong Way to Nineveh"
The story of Jonah for younger children
CAST: Narrator, Jonah, God, sailors, fish, king and people of Nineveh, animals of Nineveh.
PROPS: Tent done up like a whale's mouth (or drawn on big paper), sign post with Nineveh and Tarshish arrows, tall potted plant (or viney thing), worm (stuffed sock with eyes), costume totebox
ACT 1: ONE WAY TO TARSHISH
Narrator: There once was a man called Jonah. One day God spoke to Jonah.
God: Jonah! The people of Nineveh are being very selfish. I don't like it. Go to Nineveh and tell the people there to smarten up. Or else!
Narrator: So Jonah did what any of us would do in a difficult situation. He went to the seaside and hopped on the first boat going completely the other direction.
[Jonah starts walking. Up comes sign with 2 arrows pointing opposite directions. One arrow says, To Nineveh. Other arrow says, To Tarshish. Jonah goes to Tarshish.]
Narrator: But Jonah should have known better. When you're dealing with God, you can run, but you can't hide. God sent a nasty storm which tossed around badly the ship Jonah was on. The sailors were pretty scared.
Sailors: Oh my gosh!
This is awful!
The worst storm ever!
Throw everything overboard so we don't sink!
Hey, where's that guy, you know the guy...
Narrator: The captain found Jonah taking a snooze below decks.
The captain made him come up and talk to all the sailors.
The sailors felt God had sent the storm because God was unhappy with Jonah.
They asked Jonah what they should do to make God happy and get the storm to stop.
Jonah: You'll just have to throw me overboard. It’s the only way.
Narrator: The sailors were sad about this idea. They tried throwing other things off the ship instead. But the storm didn't stop. So they had to throw Jonah into the sea anyway. So they did.
[Sailors pretend to throw Jonah overboard.]
Narrator: But God sent a big fish that gulped Jonah right down into its tummy. Jonah was safe down there (although he didn't like the rotten fish smell) for a few days. While he was in the fish's tummy with not much else to do, Jonah made up this little prayer:
Jonah: Hey there God.
I'm sorry I ran away from you.
I know I can always talk to you in my prayers, and you will hear me.
Narrator: Right then, the fish opened its mouth and spat Jonah back out onto dry land.
ACT 2: IN THE PUMPKIN PATCH
Narrator: As you might expect, God spoke to Jonah again
God: Okay now Jonah. This time do what I tell you. Get up and go to Nineveh, and tell the people of that city to smarten up and behave. Or else!
Narrator: This time Jonah did as he was told and went to Nineveh. It was a long way. When he got there, he did what he was told.
Jonah: Hey all you guys from Nineveh!
In forty days, Nineveh will be destroyed if you don't all smarten up!
Narrator: It worked. The people of Nineveh said they were sorry. Even the sheep and cows and dogs and cats of that city looked sorry to God. When God saw all this, God decided not to destroy the city after all.
But this new decision made Jonah really mad. He went and sat outside the city and stayed in a really bad mood.
[Jonah goes and sits down under the potted plant prop.]
Narrator: God continued to look after Jonah. God made a big plant grow up over him. It was kind of like a pumpkin plant, with great wide shady leaves like umbrellas.
Jonah like it and felt quite comfy and safe in the shade of the plant God sent.
But the next morning, God sent along a worm. This worm chewed up the plant and killed it. The day became hot, and Jonah thought he would die from the heat without the shade of his friend, the green plant.
Jonah: I'm so sad. My friend, Mr. Green Plant, is gone.
Narrator: then God gave Jonah a serious talking to. He told him he should smarten up. The way Jonah felt about the plant was sort of like how God felt about all the people of Nineveh. And all the animals too. He liked them all very much. If they all showed how sorry they were, God was happy. The people of Nineveh had learned the lesson God wanted them to learn.
Scripts for Drama Workshop, Jonah & the Big Fish Rotation, adapted from the New Standard Revised Version © 2004, LD McKenzie
A representative of Rotation.org reformatted this post to improve readability.
Jonah: Master’s Mountain Theatre
Summary of Lesson Activities
Children will learn the story through the use of puppets.
The book of Jonah.
Materials: (to be prepared ahead of time)
Acquire a fan to be the “strong wind” to create the storm at sea. A carpet drying fan works great.
- Use tag board or cardboard, fabric scraps, construction paper, and felt pens to prepare the following stick puppets: a monstrous fish, a large ship, a crew of sailors, Jonah (one figure praying, one standing), a crowd of Ninevites, the King of Nineveh, and a large, hot sun.
- Prepare three backgrounds: (1) At sea, (2) In Nineveh, and (3) under a large vine. You can use poster paints from the resource room to paint these on cardboard, or use simple blue fabric or plastic for the sea, tan houses cut from construction paper and mounted on cardboard for Nineveh, and a green construction paper “vine” or a fake plant vine. Make the backgrounds to fit the puppet stage, so they need not be too large. If you can enlist kids to do this with you in a special “prop preparation workshop”, so much the better!
- Prepare at least 7 copies of the puppet play script for child actors to read from. (Maybe an older group could record their version for grades 1 & 2 who can’t read the script, or teachers could read all the parts for younger non readers.)
- Read the Scriptures prayerfully, asking God to show you what He has to say to you and to those He’s given you to teach.
- Study the Biblical Explanation and Background.
- Prepare the puppets, props and plan your use of time carefully.
Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Welcome the children and their guide(s) to the workshop, introduce yourself, and open with prayer. Please try to start and end on time, and focus your attention on the children.
Attendance: Guides take care of this. The children will be wearing nametags, so you can call them by name. Include the guide(s) in class discussion and prayer, and give them opportunities to interact with the children. They will also help with journal time at the end of the lesson.
Post the two Bible memory verses (Psalm 139:7 and I John 1:9); the children will have their own copies. Repeat these two verses with the children before beginning to teach the lesson, and ask the children to be ready to tell how each verse applies to the lesson.
Dig-Main Content and Reflection:
Teach about Jonah and the Great Fish. Briefly summarize the book of Jonah; much of the play dialog is taken directly from the Bible. If it is after the first Sunday, have the children first summarize what they remember of each chapter of Jonah, and then cite specific verses, if necessary.
Jonah and the Great Fish
God, Jonah, Sailors, Great Fish, Ninevites, King of Nineveh
Talk about how it feels to be afraid of doing what you’re told to do, to feel rebellious and run away, to feel afraid in a storm, to feel afraid of drowning, to feel what’s it’s like to be inside an animal that’s eaten you in one gulp, to be obedient after suffering, to visit your enemies, to be angry, to be puzzled, and to worship God.)
Scene 1: Jonah Runs
GOD: Jonah, I want you to go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.
JONAH (praying figure): Did I hear you right? You didn’t say, “Go to Nineveh” did you? I think I heard you say “Tarshish”…
JONAH (standing figure): One ticket to Tarshish please. (Have Jonah board the ship, and the ship move across the stage.)
STORM: (The fan blows the sea into waves, the SHIP rocks up and down, the SAILORS scream in fright, and JONAH lies down to sleep, snoring, inside the ship.)
SAILORS: Pray, pray to your god! How will we be saved? Hey, this guy’s asleep! (poking Jonah) Wake up! Pray to your god to save us!
JONAH (praying figure): Uh oh, I’m in trouble…I’m the cause of the trouble. I pray to God who made the heavens and the earth…
JONAH (standing): You must throw me overboard, then the storm will stop.
SAILORS (among themselves) We don’t want to throw him overboard… Should we do it? God forgive us! OK, here we go..!
JONAH (standing): (goes overboard) Glub, glub, glub…oh!
Scene Two (inside the great fish)
FISH with praying figure of JONAH inside appears.
JONAH (praying):Lord, I’ve been taught my lesson. I thank you and praise you, and I will obey you.
FISH: Ptuii! (spits Jonah out on the shore)
Scene Three (in Nineveh)
GOD: Jonah, go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.
(A crowd of NINEVITES appears, and Jonah speaks):
JONAH (standing): Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned!
NINEVITES: Ohhh! We believe you! We’re sorry, God!
KING OF NINEVEH: Let no one eat or drink. All must repent toward the great God who made heaven and earth. Let everyone cry to God, and give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may forgive us and not punish us.
GOD: I will forgive them; I will not destroy Nineveh.
JONAH (lay down the standing figure under the vine) Ah, this shade feels so good! I’ll just wait here until God destroys Nineveh…only 39 more days. (later)
JONAH (praying, speaking angrily) God, you’re not going to destroy Nineveh? Oh LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? I knew you are a compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love; I can’t stand this!
GOD: Have you any right to be angry?
(VINE wilts and falls away from Jonah. Bring out the sun.)
JONAH (standing, speaking angrily) How can I stand this? The poor vine!
GOD: Jonah, you have been concerned about the vine, but there were at least 120,000 children in Nineveh who can not tell their left hand from their right hand. Shouldn’t I be concerned about that great city?
JONAH (standing, moving off stage) I guess it’s time to go home.
Discussion questions (Master’s Mountain Theatre)
- God gave Jonah a second chance to obey after he saved Jonah’s life by providing the great fish. Why do you think God did this? (ANS: Jonah repented; he decided to obey God. God forgave him because God is compassionate. Memory verse, I John 1:9)
- What two groups of people worshipped God because Jonah repented? (ANS: The sailors, after the storm stopped, and the Ninevites and their King.)
- Why do you think the people and the King of Nineveh repented when Jonah said, “In forty days Nineveh will be overturned!” (ANS: Maybe they knew he’d been swallowed by a huge fish and lived to tell about; maybe he even looked different from his experience inside the fish. Maybe they knew God’s reputation as the “one true God of heaven” and were afraid; they knew Jonah’s words were true.)
Why would you believe Jonah’s preaching if you lived in Nineveh?
Close with a circle of prayer. Be sure anyone who wants to has a chance to pray.
A lesson posted by member "learner".
A representative of Rotation.org reformatted this post to improve readability.
Jonah's Journey Stations (Drama) Workshop
An Interactive Drama, includes Prop Photos:
I love doing interactive drama stations in our Drama Workshop, as you will see below.
JONAH DRAMA STATIONS:
1. God Speaks to Jonah
Props: Signs--Tarshish and Nineveh, stepladder or sturdy chair.
Students take turns, being: Jonah, sign-post, and/or God.
One student acts as a post, holding signs in his/her outstretched hands. (They can give their opinion of what's been said and done, for fun.)
God student stands on a ladder or chair and gives their best version of God's speech to Jonah in their own words. (Jonah 1:2)
2. Jonah Runs Away
Props: ship, waves, oars, blue pom-poms, thunder tube, shoes.
Ship: I made was one-sided from Cardboard and pieces held together with Octa-Clips. Used black marker to make wood plank look on side of boat.
Waves: also cut from cardboard and painted blue.
Large Fish: was also made from cardboard, the first time we did this. The next time we had a life-size whale (pictured further down).
Students become sailors and pantomime actions found in Jonah 1:4-13, given by teacher. Cargo–sailors tossed their shoes overboard! Which was handy as we wanted them to enter the whale in sock feet.
Students can slide waves back and forth, shake Thunder Tube(s) and Blue Nylon Pom Poms (rain) during the storm.
A pair of plastic oars (meant for an inflatable boat), easy to store in props container.
3. Prayers in the Belly of the Fish
Props: Life-size Whale, flashlights, pencils, clipboards with a paper.
Students all becomes JONAH and enter the whale.
Inside the Whale: Everyone had a flashlight, a pen/pencil, and a clipboard with paper. Students heard Jonah's prayer, then wrote their own prayers to God.
Also, check out Ron Shifley's "Prayer in the Belly of the Whale" lesson that uses black lights inside the whale here, pictured below.
4. Jonah Goes to Nineveh
Prop: Nineveh Background
To create a Nineveh background we used an old Bethlehem City Scene Setter (made from plastic) taped to one wall. Could easily draw a simple black and white outline of a city wall, with a gate opening, on a large piece of butcher paper.
Students become Ninevites, teacher or a student takes Jonah's position and tells the people what God has told him. Students take positions of repentance, each choosing something to repent for when approached by Jonah.
5. God's Compassion (Vine/Worm)
Props: Vines (leaves), Worm, Sun.
We used a Jolly Phonics Snack/Caterpillar puppet for the worm, but I'd suggest just using someone's arm with a Peeper Eye Puppet on their hand. Someone can also hold up a Sun, cut from a sheet of Yellow Bristol Board.
Have a couple students be the shelter/vines with their bodies, holding paper/foil leaves in their hands. They can fall down as they are eaten by the worm.
Students took turns being Jonah and whining to God. Other's took turns being God's voice responding to Jonah's questioning of his mercy.
Having the student's gather in a circle and repeat after you. “You are a loving and merciful God, always patient, always kind, and always ready to change your mind, and not punish.” Job 4:2b.
Extra: hand out handmade bookmarks with the above verse on it.
One year for VBS we created the last station scene as pictured below:
Tree made from carpet roll covered in green paper sitting in a bucket we stuffed to hold the tree straight and covered that in a green blanket to represent grass. The big green canopy leaves were from Ikea (unfortunately no longer available). You could simply cut large green leaves from Green Bristol Board.
Worm is a stuffed nylon with elastics to form indents in the body and had a pair of googly eyes on the head. It was just wrapped around the trunk and if I remember correctly held on by a couple pieces of string. We did it on the end of the stage so it felt like Jonah was looking down on Nineveh.
Written by Luanne Payne, Hampton United Church, Hampton, ON, Canada
Drama Stations are especially great for long stories, like Joseph, as we also did here.