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Nativity play kit

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By David Clayton, Garry Slack and Helen Watts

This on-screen kit will help children to write a play script of the Nativity story and perform it. It contains extracts from The Shining Signing Star (by Garry Slack), signs to go with the script, a song from the play, background scenes and character cut-outs, plus tips for performing a play and how to rehearse effectively.

This is not intended for use as a single lesson; it will be a unit of work developed over several days or even a week or two, depending on your desired outcome.


Shared teaching and learning

Before reading

  • Discuss with the children what a play script is and how this differs from narrative. Tell the children that this unit of work will help them to write their own play scripts for the Nativity story and look at the contents of the kit and relate these to the things they will need to consider when writing their play.
  • Look at the way the extract from The Shining Signing Star is set out. Make a list of key features which you can use when writing your own play scripts.
  • Ask the children to share the story of the Nativity as they remember it. Make a list of characters and settings from the story. Cross-reference these with those in the kit.

Shared reading

  • Read the story of the Nativity, retold by David Clayton, to the children. Look at the pictures. What are they showing? How would this be shown as a play? What would you need?
  • Reread the paragraph beginning ‘Just before the baby was born’. What part of the story is this?
  • Now look at the extract from the play and choose children to read out the various parts. What is the other text, that is not a speaking part? What is its purpose?
  • Discuss how stage directions help to develop the story further by directing actors regarding positions and gestures, and when to enter/leave the stage. What scenery and props might help to advance the plot?
  • What differences do the children notice between the narrative paragraph and the scene from the play depicting the same part of the story? Make a list of the extra detail drawn out of the story in the play script. Discuss how it would be very difficult to put all of this into narrative without the text becoming too long and overloaded with description. Draw out the purpose of a play script – it is intended for an audience to watch, not simply listen to as they would a story, so attention must be paid to the visual telling of the story as well as the auditory.

More resources for more information about The Shining Signing Star by Garry Slack (Sausage Dog Publishing).

The sign of a good story – Feature article by Garry Slack exploring the benefits of using sign language to tell a story.

How to write dialogue – Informative Literacy Time PLUS poster by Celia Warren.

The Nativity Play Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen (Hodder, 978 03403 98944). This adorable picture book is described as ‘a tribute to all those who perform miracles with wire coat-hangers and stripy towels’.

Responding to the text

  • Work on the extract from the play again, this time trying to add movement to the parts. Discuss with the rest of the class where the actors should stand, when they should move, how they should say their parts, etc. Is this all in the stage directions? Choose a ‘director’ (this role may need explaining to the class) to use the play script to direct the actors. Are there other creative decisions to be made that are not written in the stage directions?
  • Look again at the illustrations from the narrative version of the story included in the kit. In groups, create tableaux (or freeze frames) to recreate these scenes. Ask each group to act out the part of the story leading up to that scene and then re-freeze it when they get there. Children should think about the role they have taken on, the emotions they can convey in their face and body, and the words their character might speak.
  • Ask the children to practise using their faces to show given emotions. Play charades to explore different scenarios. Can the rest of the class guess what the actor is trying to show? (See the ‘Rehearsal Tips’ sheet for ideas about drama games.)
  • Discuss the title of the play The Shining Signing Star. Look at the signs for different animals in the play – eg, dog, animals, camel, pig, donkey, mouse/rat. Ask the children to do these signs as you say the words. Now look back through the Nativity story. If you were going to retell this story using sign language, what other signs might you need?
  • Take photos of the children performing each sign and display these in the classroom. The children could consider including these when writing their own scripts. Invent a symbol that could be inserted into their scripts to show that a sign needs to be performed when that word appears.

Literacy Framework

See the Using this issue chart here to identify the Learning Objectives covered by these activities, to track progression from Year 2 through to Year 5, and to identify links with Year 3 and 4 Literacy Planning Units.

Group work

Teacher guidance

  • Put the children into groups (or you could do this as a class if you’d prefer) and tell them they are going to write and perform their own version of the Nativity play. Work through the Nativity play kit. Ask each group to read the ‘Prepare a script’ part of the resource, making decisions as a group and writing notes as they go along. To help, they could use the downloadable activity sheet, Preparing a play script below. Enlarge it to A3 if necessary.
  • Spend some time with each group helping them to focus their ideas for their play script. Will it be performed using actors (in which case props and large scenery will be needed) or will it be performed as a puppet show (in which case the settings and characters from the kit can be used)?
  • Choose a director from each group (this might be a Gifted and Talented Child) and give them a copy of Step by Step to Showtime. Ask the director to work with their group to allocate roles based on the children’s talents and interests – eg, props/settings creators, script writers, stage direction writers, actors and narrators. Ask the children to make labels for themselves showing what role they are taking on within the group.
  • Spend some time showing the children how to take reported speech from the Nativity story and turn it into direct speech for characters to say in the script. Ask the children to contribute their own ideas. They may want to modernise the speech using present day phrases and terminology.
  • Listen to the song from The Shining Signing Star called ‘Follow the Donkey’. Discuss the role of music in a play and how the children might like to use music in their play.

Ongoing sessions

  • The children could spend several days, perhaps a week, writing their play script in their group. Encourage contributions from every group member, although only one or two might actually write it down. Other members of the group will need time to make scenery and props. Actors will need time to rehearse once the script is written. The more adults that are available to work alongside each group in supporting them while they write their play, the better.
  • Give each group a copy of the extract from The Shining Signing Star as a reminder of how to set out a play. Also give them a copy of Preparing a Script, to work through.
  • Groups who are planning a puppet show script will need copies of the settings and characters from the play script kit.
  • Children might like to add their own music to their play from a school collection of Christmas music or they may like to produce their own Nativity song.
  • Groups will need plenty of time to rehearse (refer again to the Rehearsal tips sheet), including adding in signs where appropriate.
  • SEN children might benefit from being provided with a storyboard of scenes for the play (you can adapt the activity sheet Preparing a play script for this) and some direct speech to include for each scene, as they may find this difficult.


  • Perform the finished plays to the audience for which they were intended. You could film the performances so the children can watch and evaluate their own work. Which bits went well? Which bits could be improved?
  • Do the same for the process of writing the play script. Was it easy/difficult? Which bits were hard? How could the task be made easier next time?


  1. julie
    on 7 December 2015

    nativity play

    I found these tips really helpful thanks!!