Resource Guide - The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical

Before the Show

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+ About the Show
The Herdmans are ready to wreak havoc! What happens when the “worst kids in the history of the world” find out about free food at Sunday school? And what happens when they decide to audition for the annual Christmas pageant? Will the show go on? This hilarious and heartfelt musical comedy, adapted from Barbara Robinson’s classic story, will have your family laughing and crying as we celebrate the holidays.
Themes: Community, traditions, belonging, empathy, musical comedy

+ The BIG Questions Before the Show
  1. The pageant doesn’t go as originally planned, but everyone agrees it was the best pageant ever. Has something you planned not gone the way you expected? How did you feel at first? How did you feel about it when it was all over? Did you learn anything because something unexpected happened?
  2. Do you know anyone in your class, school or neighborhood who acts like the Herdman children? Without naming him or her, what might cause some of his or her behaviors?
  CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.(K-5).2: Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media. NCESHealthEd.4.ICR.1.1: Explain the importance of showing respect for self and respect and empathy for others.

+ Vocabulary Enrichment
Pick three words from the list and use them in an original sentence or paragraph. You can also draw a picture, illustrating the definitions.
  • congregation n. the people attending a religious service
  • pageant n. a play made from a historical event or legend
  • plague n. a large number of harmful or annoying things
  • evacuated v. past tense: to have left a dangerous place
  • inconsolable adj. extremely sad and not able to be comforted
  • bazaar n. an event where things are sold to raise money for people or an organization
  • audition n. a short performance from an actor being considered for a role in a play or musical
  • rehearsal n. preparation for a public performance
  • director n. a person who supervises the production of a play
  • cancel v. to stop doing or planning to do something
  CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.(K-5).4: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases.

+ Activities

Holidays Around the World
Different countries and cultures celebrate the holidays with a variety of traditions during the winter months. As a class, make a list of winter holidays from around the world the students may already know. Then, supplement the list with the holidays listed below.
Have each student pick one holiday to research and create a presentation. It should include the reason for celebration, country or culture of origin, and various traditions involved with the holiday. As a class, compare and contrast the different holidays. What are some differences? What are some similarities?
  • Tet (Vietnamese New Year)
  • Yule (Pagan)
  • Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican)
  • Hanukkah (Jewish)
  • Christmas Day (Christian)
  • Boxing Day (Australian, Canadian, English, Irish)
  • Las Posadas (Mexican)
  • Dongzhi Festival (Chinese)
  • Newtonmas (Atheist)
  • Pancha Ganapati (Hindu)
  • Krampusnacht/St. Nicholas Day (European)
  • St. Lucia Day (Swedish)
  • Bodhi Day (Buddhist)
  • Three Kings Day/Epiphany (Christian)
  • Kwanzaa (African American)
  • Omisoka (Japanese)
  • Saturnalia (Pagan)
  • Yalda (Zoroastrian)
  NCES-SocialStudies.3.C.1.1: Compare languages, foods and traditions of various groups. NCES-InfoTech.3.TT.1.1: Use a variety of technology tools to gather data and information (e.g., Web-based resources, e-books, online communication tools, etc.).

Match the Holiday Greeting
Click the button to see a printable worksheet for your classroom or family.
Holiday Greeting - Matching
Answer key: French (2), Swedish (10), Mandarin-Chinese (1), Italian (6), Spanish (9), Greek (4), Irish-Gaelic (5), German (3), Japanese (7), Russian (8)

+ Meet Book Author Barbara Robinson
Barbara Robinson began writing stories in elementary school and credits her mother, a schoolteacher, in getting her started. Her favorite thing about writing stories is creating true-to-life characters, and she believes studying theatre in college helped her in bringing those characters to life in her books.
Robinson wrote "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" in 1972 and adapted it for television and stage. She also wrote short stories and poems for McCall’s, Redbook and Ladies Home Journal.

After the Show

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+ The BIG Questions After the Show
  1. The Herdmans initially join the play because of the offer of free food, but why do you think they stuck with it?
  2. Is there a hero in this story? If so, whom?
  3. Musical theatre combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting and dance. Each element helps to tell the story. Did any one song from the musical stand out? Which song was it and why?
  CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.(K-5).2: Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media. NCES-TheaArts.2.TA.A.1.2: Analyze the relationships between events, characters, and settings. NCES-TheaArts.4.TA.A.1.2: Critique choices made about characters, settings, and events as seen, or portrayed in, formal and informal productions.

+ Activities

What happens next?
As a class, review the final events of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical. Instruct the students to get into small groups and assume the characters of the Herdmans or other children in the pageant. Each group should create a scene that occurs after the pageant ends. Give them a few moments to rehearse their scenes and then share them with the entire class.
After the groups have shared their scenes, you may extend the project by encouraging students to write a journal entry from the perspective of their character in the scene. The students should focus on what their characters were thinking and feeling during the scene. Don’t forget to include any changes your character has gone through since the beginning of the story.
  NCES-TheaArts.(K-5).TA.AC.2: Use performance to communicate ideas and feelings. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.(3-5).1: Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.

Community of Givers
Ask students to name activities which they have been told they are too young to do. Write the list on the board. Ask the students if there are any activities on the list they feel they could do. As a class, Click here to read about successful service projects designed by children. Allow students to conduct further research on their own about children who are making a difference.
How do you think these young people succeeded in making their project work? If you could make any service project you could imagine into a success, what would it be and why? Are any of these ideas something your class could actually do? Plan a service project in which the entire class could engage. And then, see if you can turn it into a schoolwide challenge!
  CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.(3-5).2: Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text. NCES-SocialStudies.3.C&G.2.3: Apply skills in civic engagement (school, community).

Word Scramble
Click the button to see a printable worksheet for your classroom or family. Herdman Word Scramble

+ External Links

+ Talk About Theatre Jobs
Every play Children’s Theatre of Charlotte produces is created by a talented team of designers, technicians, actors, and a director. As a class, discuss what you experienced when you saw the performance.
  1. Name three things you noticed about the scenery. Did the scenery help tell the story? What sort of scenery would you design?
  2. What did you like about the costumes? Did the costumes help tell the story? What sort of costumes would you design?
  3. What role did lighting play in telling the story? How did the lights enhance what you were seeing?
  4. Talk about the actors. Were there moments you were so caught up in the story you forgot you were watching a play?
  5. Were there any actors who played more than one character? What are some ways you can show you are a different character?
  NCES-TheaArts.(K-5).TA.A.1: Analyze literary texts and performances. NCES-TheaArts.(K-5).TA.AE.1.2: Understand how costumes [and technical elements] enhance dramatic play.

+ Recommended Reading
If you enjoyed the show, travel to ImaginOn or your local Charlotte Mecklenburg Library branch and check out these books. Check availability at
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical
By Jahnna Beecham & Malcolm Hillgartner | Adapted from the book by Barbara Robinson | Orchestrations and vocal arrangements by Deborah Wicks La Puma | Produced by special arrangement with Broadway Licensing