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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: Teacher's Guide

Updated on September 22, 2014

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - A Guide for Teachers and Parents

"One of the best Christmas books ever," says Publishers weekly about The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. I agree. My kids love this book and I do too. It's a fantastic selection for a family or classroom read-aloud around Christmas time. Besides being clever, funny, and emotionally moving, this book forces the reader to throw out the tired Christmas conventions and see the wonderful story of Christmas with new eyes.

As a teacher, I like The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for its vocabulary, the narrator's point of view, potential for spinoff projects, essays, and discussions, and the way it unpretentiously teaches empathy and compassion. If you haven't read this excellent book, borrow it from a friend or the library, read it in a sitting at the bookstore, or buy your own copy. You'll be glad you did.

(Photo by Kurt Magoon, CC2.0)

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Plot Summary - Spoiler warning: full synopsis

The Herdmans are six scrawny children ( Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie and Gladys) who are notorious delinquents in their community. Among other things, they lie, steal, smoke cigars (even the girls!), swear, and hit little kids. The kids basically raise themselves. Their father walked out when the youngest was two years old, and their mother works double shifts at the shoe factory.

The story is narrated by Beth Bradley, a girl in Imogene Herdman's class. Beth's brother, Charlie, unwisely lies to Leroy Herdman, saying that he doesn't mind Leroy stealing his dessert at school because Charlie gets all the snacks he wants at Sunday School. This leads to all six Herdmans showing up at church the next Sunday for the first time in their lives.

Beth's mother is put in charge of the Christmas pageant when the original leader, Mrs. Helen Armstrong, fells and breaks her leg. The announcement for the auditions happens to be on the day the Herdmans show up at church, and, avid movie fans that they are, the Herdman's volunteer (and threaten) their way into all six of the main parts.

In spite of the Herdmans never having heard the Christmas story before (and wanting to change the script so they can hunt down the evil King Herod) and in spite of never making it through a complete rehearsal, the show does go on and turns out to be, as everyone says, the best Christmas pageant they have ever seen. Nobody can put a finger on the precise reason, but it has to do with the fact that the Herdmans just act like real people, probably like the characters in the Bible story really were, rather than the radiant, haloed saints that are usually protrayed. (Adapted from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever on Wikipedia.)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

I rank "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" right up there with O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi" and Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" as the best Christmas read-alouds ever. Click through and read the first few pages. I'm sure you'll agree.



Unto you a child is born!"

Can't Get Enough of the Herdmans? - More books with characters from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

These aren't as popular as The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, but give them a chance. If you've read one of these, please share your impressions in the guest book.

The Best School Year Ever
The Best School Year Ever

"A dangerous, shifty, fearless, cigar-smoking family of thieves and fight-instigators, the horrible Herdmans are distributed one per grade at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, and it is unclear whether junior high or jail will be their next step. Sixth-grader Beth Bradley, the narrator, has the misfortune of drawing Imogene Herdman's name for a class project in which students must think of "Compliments for Classmates" at the end of the year. How will she find something good to say about Imogene? Just as the Herdmans discover something about the meaning of Christmas in the first book, Beth and her classmates realize that there is good in everyone-even in Imogene Herdman." -from the School Library Journal Review on

The Best Halloween Ever
The Best Halloween Ever

"The Herdmans are back and still causing havoc. This large family of ruffians has terrorized the community in the past by turning on the sprinklers and nearly drowning all the turkeys, spray painting kids, stealing cakes, and making kids buy back their own candy. This time, in an effort to avoid the inevitable Herdman-induced chaos of the Halloween activities, Principal Crabtree proposes that the celebration be held at the school, under the watchful eyes of parents and teachers. The kids are bummed because it will be a trick-or-treatless night, and they would rather face the Herdmans on the street than miss the candy. However, the Herdmans manage to turn the event into a disaster for the adults, and the best Halloween ever for the children." -from the School Library Journal Review on


Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Activities, Lesson Plans, and Projects - Extend the learning in your home or classroom

Best Christmas Pageant Ever The Marquee by Kurt Magoon
Best Christmas Pageant Ever The Marquee by Kurt Magoon

Below you will find activities, lesson plans, unit study ideas, vocabulary/spelling words and more, all related to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. The book is under 100 pages and contains seven chapters. There are many ways to schedule the reading and activities, but one possibility is to read a chapter a day, beginning in early December, working on vocabulary all along, and then do some bigger activities right before winter break. (Photo by Kurt Magoon)

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Quick Activity Idea

Rewrite a scene from the book, but narrate it from Imogene Herdman's point of view.

A Guide for Using "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" in the Classroom - Recommended Resource for Teachers

A Guide for Using The Best Christmas Pageant Ever in the Classroom: educational guide (Thematic Unit) (Literature Units)
A Guide for Using The Best Christmas Pageant Ever in the Classroom: educational guide (Thematic Unit) (Literature Units)

"I haven't personally used this book, but I have been pleased with everything I've tried from its publisher, Teacher Created Resources. Here's the product description on

This resource is directly related to its literature equivalent and filled with a variety of cross-curricular lessons to do before, during, and after reading the book. This reproducible book includes sample plans, author information, vocabulary building ideas, cross-curriculum activities, sectional activities and quizzes, unit tests, and ideas for culminating and extending the novel."

Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Vocabulary and Spelling Words

Create your own list or borrow someone else's is a wonderful free site to learn spelling and vocabulary words. You can build your own list or choose from one of thousands of teacher-submitted lists. Here is one of ten lists of spelling words from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. You can print the word lists, or use the site for drills, games and tests.

Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Script - Feeling ambitious? Put on a performance

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Script)
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Script)

"Comedy / All Groups / 4m, 6f, plus 8 boys and 9 girls In this hilarious Christmas tale, a couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant is faced with casting the Herdman kids - probably the most inventively awful kids in history. You won't believe the mayhem - and the fun - when the Herdmans collide with the Christmas story head on! This delightful comedy is adapted from the best selling book and the only story ever to run twice in McCall's Magazine." -from the product description

children's book author Barbara Robinson
children's book author Barbara Robinson

Author Study: Barbara Robinson

Learn more about the creator of the Herdmans

Author Barbara Robinson grew up in a small town on the Ohio River. Her father died when she was young and her mother, who raised her with the help of friends and relatives, instilled in her a love for books. She began writing very early, and besides her books for children, has wrote poems and short stories. The beloved author died in 2013.

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    • maryseena profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm looking forward to reading this book.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      its an awesome book my teacher read it to us and my whole class loved the book

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 

      6 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      A great book for any age at Christmas!

    • franstan lm profile image

      franstan lm 

      6 years ago

      Great lens

    • jadehorseshoe profile image


      7 years ago

      A cool lens; for any season of the year.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      great book for Christmas..

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      7 years ago from Colorado

      This is a great way to bring new life and a new perspective into the annual Christmas pageant. Thank you for introducing me to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Appreciated!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens. Wanting to check out this story now.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great Lens! Thank you for reminders of a great story!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      very nice, I remember reading the book when I was younger...

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Ohhh I have read this book before, nice book and actually I have recommended to many friends too :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      thanks for sharing this nice book

    • Brookelorren LM profile image

      Brookelorren LM 

      7 years ago

      Love this book. I was in this play twice: once as a baby angel, and the second time as Beth. Good story.

    • Stacy Birch profile image

      Stacy Birch 

      7 years ago

      Nice lens, I like the photos.

    • MisterJeremy profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @JoyfulPamela2: That's awesome! Thank you for sharing.

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image


      7 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Love the book, play, and movie! I was recently performing in an orchestra in a small local theater in Pennsylvania and was really excited to find out that it was the original theater that presented the play version. I am told that Mrs. Robinson has been there to help with the production many years - very cool! =D

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Sounds like an interesting read. Haven't heard of it until right now!

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L B 

      7 years ago from Covington, LA

      Excellent lens about an excellent book. Sprinkled with dust from the Angel of the farmyard on a Back to School Field Trip and featured on 70 Super Angel Blessed Squidoo Pages.

    • deldobuss profile image


      8 years ago

      We just read this for Christmas! Such a great story!

    • littlelu lm profile image

      littlelu lm 

      8 years ago

      One of my favorite books ever! I got 100 on the quiz! Thanks for the lens and blessed :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is new to me but sounds like a wonderful story that would be so fun to read. I could follow the story line a bit by the quiz questions. I would guess you often hear, "Can you read it again!"

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      I used to booktalk this book every holiday season when I visited the schools. The kids would flock to the library to get it. I'm glad you're introducing it to more readers.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I loved the book and the movie and really enjoyed playing the part of Helen Armstrong in a local production put on by our church. Two of girls were in it and played Beth Bradley and Maxine. Great story about love, acceptance and the true meaning of Christmas.

    • MuskyJim LM profile image

      MuskyJim LM 

      8 years ago

      Thank you for a great lens =D

    • Sami4u LM profile image

      Sami4u LM 

      8 years ago


      Nice review :)

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for the great review and activity tips. I think my daughter would enjoy this book.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      8 years ago from USA

      Wonderful review!


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