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The power of words

To show how words can both cause damage to others and build them up (SEAL theme 6, ‘Relationships’).

by Guy Donegan-Cross

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To show how words can both cause damage to others and build them up (SEAL theme 6, ‘Relationships’).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need two sheets of paper with funny phrases (for playing the Chinese Whispers game) written on them.
  • A feather pillow, a box of matches, and some salt.

Assembly

  1. Ask six children to stand at the front in a straight line, facing the audience. Without revealing the phrase to them, show the rest of the assembly one of your funny phrases, making sure that they do not say it out loud.

    Now whisper the phrase in the ear of the first child in the row and ask them to pass it down the line in the style of Chinese Whispers. If the last child gets the phrase right, give them a round of applause. Repeat with the same group, or a different group.
  2. Ask the children, what is gossip? Elicit answers. Say how what is said and believed about things and people can change very quickly as gossip spreads very easily. Sometimes people say things about us. We can all remember when people have hurt us with words.
  3. Tell this story while holding up the pillow.

    There was a man who kept spreading terrible gossip in his town about the local priest. But one day, he realized the harm he had caused to the priest and he sought his forgiveness. He asked the priest if there was anything he could do to make amends.

    The priest instructed him to go to the town square with a feather pillow, cut it open and scatter the feathers. The man did as he was instructed and the feathers blew into every corner, gutter, window and door.

    He went back to the priest to report that he had accomplished his request. And the priest said, ‘Now go and collect the feathers, because your gossip has spread as far as those feathers.’
  4. Say how words have a lot of power. Once we say something about someone else it is very difficult to take it back.
  5. Light a match. The Bible says that the tongue is like a match. It may be a small flame, but what if I put the flame to a pile of wood or paper? Very quickly it may burn out of control.
  6. Words can pull down, but they can also build up. What are some of the good things you remember people saying to you? How did you feel? 
  7. Show the salt. The Bible says that our words can be like salt. A little bit of salt makes things taste interesting – it brings out flavours.

Time for reflection

Give the children a moment of quiet to think of one salty thing, one encouragement, they could offer someone today.

Prayer
Lord Jesus,
May my words be salty and build people up today.
May my words show the people I meet that they are special.
Amen.

Song/music

‘Go, tell it on the mountain’ (Come and Praise, 24)

Publication date: January 2010   (Vol.12 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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