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Storytelling, Movement and Music Workshop Lessons and Ideas for Teaching Jonah's Story in Sunday School

Bible Sunday School lessons and ideas about Jonah -with Storytelling, Movement, and Music, teaching with songs, Bible songs, Bible instruments, etc.

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Please do not post copyrighted lyrics. Excerpts and links are acceptable with attribution.

Visit the Music & Movement Workshop Forum for many ideas and links about teaching with music and movement.

Visit the Storytelling Workshop Forum for a manual about Biblical Storytelling by Amy Crane, as well as other posts containing many ideas and links about storytelling techniques, resources, using flannel-graph boards, etc.

Retelling the story by creating verses to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell"

Jaymie Derden - posted in 2004 this idea, found in the general music forum is copied below:

I'm not very musical, but I've had fun with piggyback songs, especially with younger children. (Older elementary kids think I'm just really weird!!!) I can remember basically retelling the Jonah story while singing a piggyback song to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell." After singing a few verses (Jonah was a man... One day God spoke to him, Go to Ninevah, I don't wannna go, So JOnah ran away, etc.) I involved the kids in helping to create the verses... "And then the storm blew in... ask the kids what that must have felt like (cold wind blew, ocean waves got rough, waves crashed in the boat, etc.) As they come up with ideas turn them into verses and sing them together. It was really fun when we got to being inside the giant fish -- what was it like in there? Cold, dark, scary, SMELLY!

Great FUN! My two kids still roll their eyes when they remember their crazy mom singing the Jonah song.

A Jonah Song

Sung to “the other day, I met a bear” (a familiar camp song)
Written by Melodie Telfer, Mosaic Church, Mississauga Ontario
Feb 18, 2005

Here is a fun song for a Jonah lesson. Just like the camp song, the kids repeat each line after the leader and then everone sings the stanza together while clapping their hands.

There was a man
Named Jonah
God said to him
Go to that town

Jonah was sacred
He listened not
He ran away
Onto a boat

God knew he ran
God had a plan
To teach this dude
That he was rude

The waves grew high
Up to the sky
The tiny ship
Began to flip

The sailors hummed
The sailors hawed
They wondered what
Had caused this storm?

Jonah knew why
The seas were high
He told the men
To toss him in

A great big whale
Was swimming near
It swallowed Jonah
with one big gulp.

There Jonah stayed
For three long nights
Inside its belly
With no daylight

The third day
Jonah said please
God I ‘m so sorry
For running away

God heard his cry
The whale complied
Out Jonah went
On land warm and dry.

His lesson learned
Jonah returned
And Jonah, boy
He understood
When God says “go”
So, go you should.

Exchange Volunteer converted a downloadable file into a post. (It saves on bandwidth). And at a later date... modified title to fit naming conventions. Add your ideas on this topic by using REPLY.

Here are an assortment of MP3's versions of the original camp song

Last edited by Luanne Payne
Original Post

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Jonah Music


I collect VBS CDs from a variety of VBS publishers each year. Those CDs are aimed at kids and often fit the themes of the important stories. Unfortunately, that makes some of the music I use a little harder to find.

Here are the songs we used for Jonah music:

  • I’m Gonna Learn the Books of the Bible (Scripture Songs by Twin Sisters, Track #7). This is a song to help memorize the Old Testament books. We used it during arrival time. Learning rote memory stuff in the music room really seems to work.
  • Every Move I Make (Hero Quest, Track #9) (also sung by Point of Grace or David Crowder Band). I tried to always start with a worship song. You could also use this at the end -- Jonah learns that he needs to align his moves with God.
  • Hey, God! Let’s Talk (Hey God, Let’s Talk, Track #1) (should also be on The Complete Works of Troy & Genie Nilsson) Use this when Jonah's in the belly of the whale and decides to pray.
  • I Will Obey You (Sing & Play Splash (Group VBS), Track #4)
    Use this after Jonah prays -- he decides to do what God wants.
  • Change My Heart, Lord (Passport Praises, Track #2)
    Use this song after Jonah preaches to the Ninevites -- this is their reaction -- penitence and a desire for change.
  • Amazing Grace (Golden Books Music’s Hymns for Kids, Track #1) Obviously, this song is available many places.
  • God forgave the people of Ninevah and won't destroy the city!   Big House (Sing & Shout Songs for Children’s Ministry, Vol 1, Track #6) This song should be available on a bunch of different CDs, also.
    You can use this right after Amazing Grace or after Jonah pouts. We do the hand motions to it.
  • Jonah’s Theme (RPM Vol 2, Track #11)
    This song reviews the whole story. It's a parody of the theme song for the TV show Flipper (which the kids have never seen :-) ). Definitely better with older kids than younger.
  • Go Now in Peace (Good News at Gospel Rock, Track #3) (or any other version of this -- I usually have the kids sing it acapella)
    This is our traditional good-bye song from the music room.
Last edited by Lesson Forma-teer

Posted by CreativeCarol....

It occurred to me that there is a lot of motion in this story. Perhaps storytelling or creative movement workshops could make use of this
There is...

  1. Jonah running away from God.
  2. Waves in the storm.
  3. Sailors throwing cargo.
  4. Sailors casting lots.
  5. Sailors rowing hard.
  6. Sailors throwing Jonah overboard.
  7. Then there is no motion - the storm stops (and sailors worship God).
  8. Jonah moves into a great fish.
  9. Jonah prays.
  10. Jonah is vomited out of the great fish.
  11. Jonah heads to Nineveh.
  12. Jonah walked through Nineveh proclaiming, repent.
  13. Ninevites believe; put on sackcloth and fast.
  14. God has compassion on the Ninevites.
  15. Jonah stomps away angry.
  16. A vine grows up.
  17. The vine falls down.
  18. Jonah laments.
  19. God teaches.


Member PlymouthUCC took Carol's list and wrote this storytelling/movement script:

I had the kids help tell the story through the actions they made up:

Say: There’s a whole lot of action in this story.  So, as I tell it, I’m going to ask each person in turn to come up with an action for the part of the story we’re hearing.  When I point at you, make up an action that goes with the story, and then all the rest of us will have to do it with you.  Then, at the end, we’ll see if we can remember them all together.  

(as you read, hold up the cue cards for each action and have each child in turn make up an action)


Here's the story of Jonah from the book of Jonah in the Old Testament.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah saying, “Go at once to Nineveh and cry out against it, for it is a wicked place.”  But Jonah set out the opposite way, running away from the presence of God. 

(first action— hold up first cue card and point at first child: running away from God).

He boarded a boat going to Tarshish, hoping to escape God’s call.  But then there came a great wind on the sea, and a mighty storm threatened to break the boat apart

(second action—point at second child: waves in a big storm)

The sailors were afraid, and they each prayed to their own gods.  They threw all the boxes and cargo they had over the side of the boat, hoping it would lighten their load and their ship would stay afloat

(third action: sailors throwing cargo).

When that didn’t work, and the storm hadn’t calmed, they said, “Why is this terrible storm happening?”  Jonah knew that the storm was God’s way of telling him he was going the wrong direction, so he confessed to the sailors, “It’s my fault.  If you throw me overboard, the sea will calm down.”  But the sailors didn’t want him to drown, so they tried rowing harder to get back to land

(fourth action: rowing hard to land).

It didn’t work.  The storm got worse, and at last, the sailors threw Jonah overboard into the sea, saying, “Please Lord, forgive us for throwing this man into the sea!”

(fifth action: throwing Jonah over).

Right away, the storm stopped.  The sailors were so amazed that they worshiped God.

(sixth action: sailors worshiping God in amazement).

As for Jonah, he didn’t stay in the water long.  God sent a great fish to swallow Jonah so that he wouldn’t drown

(seventh action: fish swallowing Jonah).

Jonah prayed to God from the belly of the great fish

(eighth action: Jonah praying).

After three days and nights, the great fish coughed Jonah up onto dry land

(ninth action: great fish vomiting Jonah onto land).

This time, when God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah went.  When he got to the city—which was so big it took 3 days to walk all the way across it—he began to shout, “Nineveh will be destroyed!  Repent!  God has said so!” 

(tenth action: Jonah preaching in Nineveh)

The people of Nineveh believed God; everyone—the king included—put on scratchy clothes

(eleventh action: putting on sackcloth).

They fasted—did not eat their rich meals—to show how sorry they were.  The king declared that everyone should stop their violent ways, and everyone asked God to have mercy on them.  And God was pleased that the Ninevites wanted to change.  God did not destroy the city.  Jonah, on the other hand, was angry

(twelfth action: Jonah stomps away angry).

Jonah couldn’t believe that God would save the city of his enemies.  He went out of the city and sat down outside of it to watch it.  Maybe he hoped that God would destroy it anyway.  Maybe he wanted time to be angry.  Or maybe he just wanted to get out of town.  Who knows?  But either way, while he was sitting there, God made a plant grow up nearby and give Jonah shade

(thirteenth action: plant growing up).

Jonah was glad of the shade, but then at dawn the next day, God sent a worm to eat the plant.  The plant withered and died

(fourteenth action: plant dying).

Without the plant to shade him, Jonah was so hot with the sun and the wind on him that he wanted to give up.  He even said to God, “It is better for me to die than live.”

(fifteenth action: Jonah giving up).

God replied, “Is it right for you to be so angry and unhappy about the plant dying?”  Jonah said, “Yes.”  God said to him, “You are concerned about this plant that you did not plant or water.  In fact, you did nothing to help it grow.  Should I not be concerned about the city of Nineveh, with all of its children and animals?”

(sixteenth action: God scolding Jonah)

More Fun

If time permits after you tell the story, you can play around with the actions the kids made up.  Can they remember the whole story through the actions?  Point at each child in turn to do the actions one at a time, or have the whole class try to remember together which actions happened when.  Can they do them faster?  How fast?  You could also hold up the cue cards with each of the actions on them and see if the kids can tell the story themselves just by seeing the actions.

Last edited by Luanne Payne


"Large-as-life Bible Adventures" by Group Publishing (ISBN 0-7644-3549-2) (2004) has a wonderful storytelling script entitled "Jonah disobeys God". There are 12 other storytelling scripts from both the old and new testaments also included.

Movement (Story/Exercising Video)

I came across this fun way to tell the Jonah story. You can simply play this on the screen like a movie and have the kids follow along.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

A Color Coded Music Sheet for "Who Did Swallow Jonah?"

for 8 Note C-Major Metal Hand Bells

For our Jonah Rotation years ago, I created a color coded sheet for the kids to easily follow along.

Bells -Who Did Swallow Jonah 2

On the sheet the comments box down the right lists the 8 bells by color and musical note, as well as, how many times each note is played (in this case you will only be using 7 of the eight bells.)

This allows the teacher to quickly scan to see which bells are require of the eight bells and how many times each bell is rung, assisting teacher in assigning bells to younger/older children. (Example: Orange only rings 2x's, while Light Blue rings 21x's, etc.)

Bells -Who Did Swallow Jonah 1Bells -Who Did Swallow Jonah 2a

Our 8-bell set colors are: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Light Blue, Dark Blue, Purple, Red.


Checking I see that some 8-note bells sold today the colors vary, as pictured below. This set has a white bell, instead of two red bells. I also see there is a wide price range, so if purchasing bells check out prices on various sites before ordering.


Attached to this post is the handbells music sheet in two formats:

  1. A pdf for easy viewing.
  2. A Word docx should you need to adapt for different bell color(s).
    • Check this photo if you are not sure how to edit the file in WORD to change a note color.



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