How to Teach "Jonah & the Whale" to Children

In the story of Jonah and the Whale, Jonah sits inside a whale for several days.

Jonah and the Whale is a famous Biblical story, read and celebrated by Christians, Jews and Muslims. During the story, Jonah (or Yunus as he is known in Islam), is called to board a ship to preach to the people of Nineveh. Since Jonah is reluctant to answer The Call, God sends a storm to test Jonah's faith. Jonah is tossed overboard and spends several days in a whale, trying to hide from God; however, he finds he cannot hide. This story is often told as a test of faith and is traditionally read by Jews on Yom Kippur.

Read the story of Jonah and the Whale to the children. You can choose to read it directly from your Holy Book, or read a children's version in a children's Bible or a book like "Jonah and the Whale" by Sophie Piper or "The Whale and Jonah" by Deedra Scherm.

Ask the children questions about what you have read. How would they feel if they were Jonah? What do they think is God's lesson in the story? Why is this story told? How did Jonah feel when he was inside the whale? What was Jonah afraid of?

Have the students act out the story, using a few of them to play the main characters for the class. You can make a script together or you can have the students improvise to get a feel for how well they understand the story.

Ask the class to draw a picture of how they interpret Jonah and the Whale. Have each child stand up and discuss his picture and what he drew. Hang them around the classroom when they have finished.

Writing since 2008, Fiona Miller has taught English in Eastern Europe and also teaches kids in New York schools about the Holocaust. Her work can be found on, ConnectED and various other Web sites. Miller holds a B.A. in French from Chapman University and an M.A. in educational theater from New York University.