The trial of Jesus

KS2RECross-curricular links
This activity for older pupils provides material for a shared school celebration at the end of term.

Introduction

The aim of this activity for older pupils is to create, in the space of one hour, a short dramatic piece of vocal drama based on the Easter story, involving everybody present. The vocal drama could then be 'performed' in a Good Friday celebration.

Preparation

This is a draft script, with suggestions for making the piece work as best as possible. However, teachers should use their professional knowledge (and knowledge of their pupils) to adapt and adjust the script accordingly - if you're not comfortable with it, then your pupils won't be either! You may also want to add suitable background recorded music or occasional percussion, but it must not predominate over the sound of the words.

To start, sit the pupils on the floor in a semi-circle facing you, preferably in two lines. You will probably need a lectern or music stand to hold your script. As for your pupils, you need to decide whether they will have scripts or not. With scripts, they have something to fiddle with, rustle and hide behind. Without hand-held scripts, they will have to concentrate more and listen to each other for verbal cues. Alternatively, you could have the words displayed on a projector behind you, or on a display board. Ideally, scripts won't be necessary by the end.

The class needs to be split into two main groups of roughly equal ability and size, with a few selected solo speakers for key roles - Pilate, and possibly other narrators for later bits of dialogue, if a group finds the learning of words difficult. Pilate and any other soloists may appreciate being given their own scripts. This script is deliberately simple, to allow for lots of rehearsal, and for pupils to learn it by heart.

Encourage the children to stand for the performance, but give them something to 'do' each time. Avoid repeated 'standing up, sitting down' between lines - keep them standing when they perform the whole piece, to avoid time being wasted. In rehearsal, give them chances to sit down for a 'breather'. (If you want a quick alternative activity, practise the words of an active song.)

Ideally, each line spoken by the crowd should be delivered with an appropriate simple gesture to make it more dramatic, and to help the pupils memorise it. It is worthwhile asking your pupils for ideas about the gestures, and then making notes on your script to help you 'lead' them. Also consider adding different facial expressions for each line - but remember you'll have to model that too!

Development

Rehearsal tip: as you work on the piece with the pupils, break the whole piece up into three segments, as indicated below. Work on each segment separately, then put the whole thing together. Don't try to do it all at once.

Warm-up

  • Preparation for vocal work - relaxing the muscles, and breath control
    Ask all the class to stand, feet slightly apart, hands to the side, heads looking forward. Explain that all professional singers and actors use special exercises like this to prepare for a performance by relaxing the upper parts of the body.
    Posture: head down, look over shoulder, then back down, then look over other shoulder, look straight ahead, shoulders up, shoulders down (a few times), swallow (a few times).
    Face
    : frown, look surprised (eyebrows up), repeating going from one to the other a few times.
    Mouth: open wide, stick out tongue, wiggle it around.
  • Breath control
    Explain that all vocal performers learn to use their diaphragm to project their voices without shouting. With both hands, feel the bottom of your ribcage while breathing in and holding your breath. Hold one arm close to you, take a deep breath, then let it out slowly saying 'SSSSSSSSSS...' all the way, slowly extending the arm out in front of you to show how much breath you have left. Do this a few times. Get everyone to count to ten aloud.

    Explain that when most people speak, they only use the air in the top part of their breathing tubes to push the air out, and shouting strains that, so professionals stand straight and hold their breath deep down in their diaphragm to push the air out from deep inside their breathing tubes. Get everybody to hold their breath and count aloud up to 10 - feel the power! Explain that good public speaking involves breath control. When you read a text, you have to plan when to breathe. You can also add the 'dramatic pause' - when you stop for a moment to catch your breath and keep your audience waiting for the next line.
  • Getting used to singing and moving
    Choose a nonsense song to sing like 'My Bonny lies over the ocean'. Start by teaching the words, then set the challenge of marking when any word with a 'b' occurs - by sticking thumbs up, then thumbs down for the next 'b' word, and so on. Next, get them to sing the song while sticking their thumbs up/down at the same time. Do they all end up with their thumbs up/down? You could repeat this with different actions - for example, alternating right leg/right arm forward and left arm/leg forward at every 'b' word.

The trial of Jesus

SEGMENT 1
Team A Team B
In the first light of dawn, Jesus' enemies tied him up and paraded him to Pilate, the Roman governor.  
  Jesus was placed before the governor, who questioned him...
Are you the 'King of the Jews'?
Jesus said... If you say so.
But when his enemies accused him, he said... Nothing!
Pilate asked him...  
Do you hear what they're saying about you? Well? Aren't you going to say something?
  Jesus kept silent - not a word from his mouth. The governor was impressed, really impressed.
SEGMENT 2
Team A Team B
During the feast, it was an old custom for the governor to pardon a single prisoner chosen by the crowd.  
  At the time, they had the notorious Barabbas in prison.
With the crowd before him, Pilate said...  
Which prisoner do you want me to pardon: Barabbas or Jesus the so-called Christ?
  He knew that they had turned Jesus over to him through sheer spite.
SEGMENT 3
Team A Team B
Meanwhile, the high priests and religious leaders had been telling the crowd what to say. The governor asked...  
Which of the two do you want me to pardon?
Barabbas! Barabbas!
Pilate then said...  
Then what do I do with Jesus, the so-called Christ?
Nail him to a cross! Nail him to a cross!
Pilate then said...  
But for what crime?
Nail him to a cross! Nail him to a cross!
Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, and that a riot was about to break out.  
  So, he took a basin of water, and washed his hands in full sight of the crowd, saying...
I'm washing my hands of responsibility for this man's death. From now on, it's in your hands. You're the judge and jury, not me.
  Then he pardoned Barabbas, and set the murderer free.
But he had Jesus whipped, and then handed over for crucifixion.  

This script freely adapted from The Message (Mark 15).

Acknowledgements

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