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The persistent spider

To examine how we achieve things (SEAL theme 4: Going for goals).

by Jude Scrutton

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To examine how we achieve things (SEAL theme 4: Going for goals).

Preparation and materials

  • Prepare the story of Robert the Bruce and the spider. You may wish to use the version below.
  • A display, to go up in the school after the assembly, of a football net with cut-out, two-dimensional footballs, laminated, for targets to be written on.
  • Choose a child from school who has a particular skill, such as ‘keep ups’ in football, or ‘hit ups’ with a tennis racket. Alternatively, use a clip of a professional sportsperson (see section 2).


  1. Ask children what they would like to be able to do? Make a list on a flip-chart.

    Once the list is compiled, discuss whether each target is easily achievable, or needs a lot of practice. To achieve it, do you need to take many small steps on the way?
  2. Invite a child with really good ball skills or skipping-rope skills to demonstrate these. Alternately, a child with a particular musical or academic skill could demonstrate this talent to the school.
  3. Ask who would like to be able to do this.

    Pick someone to come and have a go.

    Praise the volunteer for having a go and ask what he or she needs to do to be as good as the demonstrator. Will it take a long or a short time?
  4. Discuss the fact that some goals take years to accomplish and need to be broken down into smaller steps. For example, the ability to do ‘kick ups’ could be broken down into trying to do 10, then 20, then 100, with some more special tricks thrown in.

    Discuss what might prevent us from achieving these smaller steps (distraction, boredom, thinking we’re bound to fail because we always do, hopelessness, telling ourselves it’s a waste of time, not worth it).
  5. Introduce the importance of persevering. Make sure everyone knows what it means, then tell the story of the king of Scotland and the spider.

    Introduce Robert the Bruce as a king of Scotland in medieval times (he was king from 1306 to 1329). During his reign, Scotland and England were at war. Scotland was defeated by the English five times (the number of defeats varies in different versions of the legend).

    After his last defeat, Robert the Bruce fled from Scotland and took refuge in a wretched hut on an island off the north coast of Ireland. Here he stayed during one long, cold winter. He was all alone.

    It is said that one day, when he was feeling very downhearted, he saw a spider trying to spin a web between two wooden beams in his hut. The little creature tried to throw a thread from one beam to another, but failed. Not discouraged, it tried again and again and again and again, but without success.

    ‘Five times has the spider failed,’ said Bruce. ‘That is just the number of times the English have defeated me. If the spider has courage to try again, I also will try to free Scotland!’

     He watched the spider. It rested for a while as if to gain strength, and then threw     its slender thread towards the beam. This time it succeeded.

    ‘I thank God!’ exclaimed Bruce. ‘The spider has taught me a lesson. No more will I be discouraged.’
  6. Show the laminated footballs. Tell all the children to think of something they want to achieve.

    Ask two children to come up and write a short-term goal on the footballs. Keep the footballs on a display, and tell all the children that when they have achieved their own goals they can come and put a ball in the goal.

Time for reflection

Think again about the goal you would like to achieve.

We all want to be able to do things that we can’t do, but do we realize that hard work and dedication can go a long way to helping us achieve the skills or goals we are aiming for?

Dear God,
help me not to become impatient and quit prematurely.
Help me to be persistent
so that I can achieve my goals.


‘One more step along the world I go’ (Come and praise, 47)

Publication date: March 2012   (Vol.14 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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