Telling the Easter Story using one sheet of paper
How can we explain the key moments of the Easter story to children in a way that doesn't linger on the horrific elements yet conveys the power of the narrative? The approach here can be adapted in a variety of ways, but you will need to develop your own mental 'script' to be able to tell it by heart. Adapt the script below or find a good storytelling version of the story to capture the 'flow' of the key moments, and always consider the age and maturity of your audience when considering content.
For best results, use a piece of A3 paper and a pair of sharp scissors. (However, with small groups, a piece of A4 paper will do.)
Make sure your pupils can see the floor in front of you, preferably sitting around you in a half-circle. You might find it's best to kneel, so you can use the floor to lay out the pieces and make adjustments towards the end.
Remember - this is an exercise in storytelling, not origami. Consider the speed with which you tell the story, the different voices, speeding up and slowing down as appropriate - especially at the crucifixion. Use the different paper shapes as illustrations, but by the end,your pupils should be looking at you and listening for what comes next.
The paper-cutting Easter story
|1||Begin with a blank sheet of paper laid flat.||
Our story starts in the desert, the wilderness, where Jesus had to face all sort of hard questions about who was. What was he going to be?
|2||Add a fold for a boat shape. Hold this up for your pupils to see, moving around like on the waves.||After he was baptised, Jesus travelled to many places, often by boat. He had quite a few adventures in boats.
|3||Add another fold for a house shape. Hold it up.||
Jesus also visited peoples' houses to make friends and heal the sick.
|4||Flap the shape around in the air.||On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem. People lined the street waving palm leaves and anything else they could lay their hands on. 'Hooray!' they said, 'Hosanna!'|
|5||Hold the house shape up again. Shake it from side to side.||Then Jesus went into the temple, kicked over the market stalls and said, 'Stop! This is my father's house. You have turned it into a den of thieves.'|
|6||Fold the house shape in half and point to the 'attic' in the roof.||On the Thursday, Jesus took his disciples to the upstairs room of a house where they celebrated Passover.|
|7||Using scissors, slowly cut the folded paper down the middle. Use each cut to emphasise one of the things Jesus' capturers did to him.||But then Jesus' enemies captured him. They tied him up and did horrible things to him - punching, kicking, pulling out his hair, spitting in his face, laughing at him.|
|8||Open up the main section and lay it out on the ground as a cross, facing away from you.||And then they got the Romans to nail Jesus to a cross.|
|9||Lay out the two longer pieces on both sides of the cross. Fold them to emphasise the 'spear' shapes.||There were guards with spears to keep an eye on Jesus, to make sure no one tried to rescue him. No one did.|
|10||Unfold the two squares and throw near the base of the cross.||When it felt safe, the guards played a game. 'Who gets his stuff?' They got out some dice. 'First one to throw a double six wins!'
Jesus was in a lot of pain, but he didn't shout at them, or reply when people shouted horrible things at him. 'Father, forgive them,' he said. 'They don't know what they're doing!'
Later he cried out, 'Father God, where are you? I feel so alone!'
After several hours, he shouted, 'Father into your hands I give my Spirit!' And he died. No one ever deserves to die like that. He certainly didn't.
|11||Discard the small pieces. Fold the cross into a cube shape with a 'door' folded down from the top and place it on the floor.||Then one or two of Jesus' braver friends asked to be given the body. 'Yes,' said the Roman guards. 'He's not going to be any trouble now, is he?' The friends took the body, wrapped it up and placed it in a tomb.
And that was Good Friday, the end of the story. Well... not quite.
Everything stayed quiet through Saturday.
|12||Fold back that 'door' on to the roof, revealing a cube open from the front.||Then on the Sunday, one or two of his bravest friends (note here they were women) decided to go to the tomb to clean up the body and prepare it for burial, but when they arrived, the tomb was open.|
|13||You are now Mary.
Turn to an appropriate 'victim' on your left or right and poke them on the shoulder - quickly reassuring them with a smile 'just acting'.
'What's going on?' shouted Mary (a friend, not his mum) who was furious. She went in, came out and grabbed a gardener who was standing nearby. 'What's going on?' she said. 'We're paying you to look after this place! Well?'
|14||You are now Jesus...
Then Mary (shocked)...
Then Jesus again...
Screw up the 'paper tomb', symbolising death, throwing it away.
And now you are yourself, addressing your audience.
|Then the gardener pulled back his hoodie and said, 'Mary... it's me!'
'Jesus?'- she went to grab him again.
'Mary... no, put me down! Go and tell the others. God has brought me back. He's done it to show that his love is stronger than death. It's all changed Mary. The world has changed. Tell them all, Mary! Tell them!'
And bless her... she did.
What's the most interesting question you can ask about this story?
1. Discussion: What's the most interesting question we can think of about this story?
After the children have discussed this in pairs, ask for some ideas, but be prepared for some tough ones, especially about whether this story is 'really true'. Be honest and say that we cannot prove that this story happened anymore than we can 'prove' any other historical account, but we can study it closely, then ask ourselves questions about what it is saying, such as:
- Why did the 'men' disciples, who wrote this story down afterwards, tell it in a way that makes them look like cowards who ran away? Was it to tell the truth as it really happened?
- Why did none of Jesus' disciples (men or women) expect to see him alive again?
- Why were women the first people to see the risen Jesus? In the first century, women weren't thought to be trustworthy. If these people made it all up, they created a story that was deliberately hard to believe. What's the point, unless it really happened?
- Were these people slightly crazy, fooling themselves? This small group of 'failures' became a powerful people-movement that swept the Roman Empire, driving out the old gods and beliefs. If this was foolishness, it was amazingly successful. This story's message spoke deeply to thousands of people, who then wanted to be part of it.
- In Roman times, crucifixion was thought to be the most embarrassing and shameful death that anyone could suffer. If they were making it up, why didn't the disciples create a more heroic death for Jesus?
- Why does the Bible include four slightly different versions of this story? Why not have just one? Is it saying, 'Make up your own mind, but this is what we all think?'
2. Mind-mapping questions and answers
For children familiar with this technique, mind-mapping is a neat way for older children to explore and develop ideas. If studying this topic over a series of weeks, set up a classroom discussion wall with key questions and possible answers for pupils to add to and annotate.
3. Teaching children to tell the paper-cutting story for themselves
This will take a lot of scrap A4 paper, a large bin liner for all the bits and quite a lot of patience, but the children will find it fascinating. Each child will need a pair of sharp scissors and lots of paper. Expect the folding and cutting to be difficult, demonstrating it several times with larger pieces of pape, and pairing up more able 'folders and cutters' with others. It's not as easy for some as we'd like to think. Then challenge the children to take the story home to show to someone in their family.