The Lion King's Court
This lesson was written to accompany an Indian Folktale called The King's Choice, which my Kindergarten students had read, but it is really only peripherally connected to the story, and works perfectly well without it. (I assume the book is out of print. the relevant portion of the story details the King selecting a court from his animal subjects, choosing each one for some particular quality--the fox for his cleverness, the eagle for his far-seeingness, etc.) I have since used it with first graders and preschoolers, who were studying Africa and Rainforests, respectively. Obviously it need not tie in with other curriculum--that's just something I like to do when I can.
I introduce the activity like this: "Everyone knows the Lion is King of the Jungle. But every good King needs a court. A King needs to have people around him who are his friends, whom he can trust and upon whom he can rely. These people are called courtiers. What qualities should courtiers possess?"
We discuss this question. Students usually come up with "strong," and "brave," and "helpful." With a little coaching they are usually able to add "kind," and "loyal," and "clever." After the group accepts each new adjective, I ask them to think about which animals exemplify each quality. (For example, elephants are strong and helpful, dogs are helpful and brave, cats are clever and brave, horses are loyal and helpful, etc.) We discuss the sort of animals who would make good courtiers until a decent list has been generated.
Playing the Game
Next, I tell my students that we will now act out the selection of the King's court. Each student chooses an animal to portray. (It need not necessarily be one that was mentioned earlier, although of course most will be.) The teacher, in role as the Lion King, calls each "animal" forward. "You, animal. Come forward into the presence of the King." The animal moves forward. "What sort of animal are you?" The student announces what animal he or she is portraying. With older students I usually want them to use an appropriate animal voice. Then I demand, "Why should I have a (blank) in my court?"
The student then describes the qualities of her/his animal that make that animal good courtier material. The King responds, "Wonderful! You may join my court." (I usually have an area defined around myself for the "court," so that the students can physically enter.)
Obviously everyone must be invited to join--even snakes.
I usually end this session by having a parade of the King's court, with each animal moving according to its way. Then the whole group (if the walls are sufficiently thick) "roars"--each according to species--to announce the presence of the greatest Royal court in the land.
When my second-graders were studying the oceans, I did a version of this game called "The Sea King's Court." Each student became a sea animal. You could try it with older kids using real historical figures--from any era or from a specified one--and a mythical human King or Queen (or a president, putting together a cabinet).