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Don't Judge a Book by its Cover

To illustrate and apply this saying.

by Gill O'Neill

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To illustrate and apply the saying, 'Don't judge a book by its cover'.

Preparation and materials

  • Remove the label from a tin of peaches (or other tinned fruit), and stick in its place the label from a tin of dog food. Place the can in a plastic carrier bag, along with a tin-opener, a spoon and a transparent dish.


  1. Rush into the hall at the last minute. (If you can, ask a colleague to begin the greeting of the assembly, so that you can rush in as if you were late into work. You could even have your slippers on or something else to show that you got up in a hurry. Apologize to the colleague.)

  2. Explain to the children that you overslept this morning and had to get into school in a rush. Tell them that as you were in such a hurry you didn't get time to eat any breakfast. Ask if they mind if you have a quick snack now, before you get on with the assembly.

  3. Take the tin out of the bag, so that the children can see the label. As you take it out, explain that you were in such a hurry you just grabbed the first thing out of the cupboard that you came to. If they gasp or make any reaction, tell them to quieten down and be patient, and that you'll only be a couple of minutes.

    Open the tin with as much deliberation as possible, trying hard to be oblivious to any reaction from the children. Smell the contents of the tin, and comment on the unusual smell. Take out your spoon and insert it into the tin.

    Before you bring out the first spoonful, stop, and comment to the children that you're not sure that you're really that hungry. Take out a spoonful, and as you get the spoon to your mouth, hesitate, maybe commenting again that it smells a little strange. Be prepared for a shocked or noisy reaction as you eat the first spoonful. Then pause while they quieten down, smack your lips together and say how delicious it is, and continue to eat several more spoonfuls.

  4. Put the tin down. Ask the children why they were so excited about you eating your breakfast. If they tell you that you were eating dog food, deny it - no one would eat dog food for breakfast. Say again that it was delicious.

  5. Point to the tin, then act surprised when you see the label. Ask them, so you think that I've been eating dog food?

  6. Ask the children if any of them have heard the expression, 'Don't judge a book by its cover'. Do any of them know what it means? Now tell the children that you'd rather use the expression, 'Don't judge what's on the inside by what's on the outside'.

    Tip the remaining contents of the tin into the bowl so that the children can see that you were actually eating fruit.

  7. Explain that although the label showed dog food, what you were actually eating was tinned fruit. Go on to say that appearances can fool us, and we should only make judgements about something, or someone, when we know not only what we can see on the outside, but also what is on the inside.

Time for reflection

Dear God,
Help us to remember that sometimes what we see on the outside is not what is inside.
Help us not to judge by appearances, but to get to know one another,
and find out about what is inside each of us.
For it is by finding out about each other that we can make true friends.


'Thank you, Lord, for this new day' (Come and Praise, 32)

Publication date: December 2001   (Vol.3 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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