How to...put on a Christmas play

Dust down the tinsel and start preparing for the Christmas play. Don't want to worry you, but there's not much time left.

But which Nativity play to choose?

It's too late to write your own now, but plenty of resources are available, with scripts and CDs of songs. Niki Davies' Whoops-a-Daisy Angel, Alison Hedger's Nursery Rhyme Nativity, and Scrooge are old favourites. Choose a play no longer than 20 minutes with short, interesting and repetitive songs. Lots of one-liners give more children the chance of a speaking part.

And something less traditional?

Adapt Allan Ahlberg's Jolly Postman. Find out where your children are from, their local customs, and feature a postcard delivery to every destination.

It's a good way to include children from all cultures in the festivities.

Any tips on casting?

Involve everyone. Less confident children enjoy singing in the chorus and dressing up as scenery or non-speaking parts. Children who lack self-esteem can be transformed by a turn in the limelight. Have high expectations.

What about rehearsals?

Little and often works best. Start teaching songs for 10-15 minutes daily.

Use lunchtimes to rehearse main characters so the others in the class don't get bored.

And scenery, props and costumes?

Keep it simple. Try a backdrop of a night-time sky, with each child providing a star. Rope in parents for white T-shirts and tinsel for the angels; coloured T-shirts, tea towels, headbands and staffs for shepherds; brocade curtains for kings. Children can make crowns and contact a garden centre for a bale of hay.

Any tips for the big day?

Get the head to ask parents to switch off mobile phones and take rowdy siblings outside. If photography's allowed, parents can play paparazzi at the end. Playing the CD in performance aids confidence and you could place an adult at the back for the children to focus on when speaking their lines.

Don't forget the tissues - for any accidents or tears. And break a leg!

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