Acting and Roleplaying

Either during the retelling or after I am done, when the parasha is primarily narrative, I have the students act out parts of the story they have just heard. I quickly assign parts, set the scene, and then let them re-enact the scene as they imagine it. When necessary, I even suggest what each character should say.

Getting Everyone Involved

Part of the reason for doing this is simply to get students up and moving after a long time of sitting still and listening. For some students, this movement and active involvement is essential to being able to take in the story and remember it. While oral storytelling and referring to the written text are essential to Torah study, they are not the ideal modes of learning for all students. Acting out the story is one alternative way to teach it. For other students, this piece allows them to put themselves in the shoes of the character and bring the story alive. While they often re-enact just what they heard from the text, there are many times when the actors elaborate on the story. They fill in lines that they think the character might have said, or show with their movements and facial expressions how they think the character might have felt. At some level, they are interpreting the text, perhaps even making their own midrash.

Bringing the Text to Life

Acting out these stories often helps the children to imagine and understand the world of the past, keeping the text in its historical context. When they act out “walking through the desert with the camels,” this helps them to understand that people in the times of the Torah used different forms of transportation than we do today. At the same time, re-enacting the stories may help the child bring the text into the present in some way, by imagining how these stories are relevant to their own lives. When they act out Avraham inviting guests into his tent, they may be able to connect that experience to their own experiences welcoming guests into their homes or our classroom.

Kids standing in a classroom

Acting out Parshat Lech Lecha (6:47)

Shira Horowitz talks with young children in a classroom

Acting out Parshat B'shalach (6:28)