Is It Really Impossible?
To help reframe challenges from a canít do to a canít do yet.
by Kirk Hayles
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To help reframe challenges from a can’t do to a can’t do yet.
Preparation and materials
- This assembly involves the use of scissors so choose your volunteers appropriately.
- You will need four or eight volunteers, four A3 sheets of paper, five A4 sheets of paper and four pairs of scissors.
- See the photographs supplied with this assembly to help you with cutting the paper to do the ‘magic trick’ in step 3 below. It is a good idea to practise this ahead of the assembly.
- Tell the children that you have a challenge for them. Invite your four volunteers to come up and give them each a sheet of A3 paper and a pair of scissors.
Tell them that they each need to cut their piece of paper so they can climb through it without tearing the paper. Give them about a minute to complete the task.
Let the children, one at a time, pass their bodies through the hole they have cut in the paper. Most children are probably able to do this and each child can be applauded as he or she successfully completes the challenge.
- Now hold up a sheet of A4 paper and tell the same children or your other four volunteers to attempt the challenge again with this smaller piece of paper. Give them each a sheet of A4 paper an wish them luck with this trickier challenge. Some very slight children may still be able to complete this challenge by, again, simply cutting a hole in the paper.
- When the children have finished trying, hold up your own sheet of A4 paper again and ask the children if they think it is possible for you to cut the paper and climb through it. Say that you think you can do it and, in fact, you think you can cut it to get two or more of you through the paper at the same time. Ask the children, ‘Do you think that is possible?’
Follow the instructions below and refer to the photographs supplied with this assembly, cutting the paper in front of the children.
(a) Fold the paper in half, short edges together, so it looks like a book. Put the paper on a surface, with the folded edge closest to you (you may find, with a bit of practice, you can do this without a surface to lay the paper on, so the children can see more clearly what you are doing).
(b) Cut across the folded edge and about 1 cm in from the left-hand edge, cutting in a straight line towards the other, open edges of the paper opposite the folded edge. Stop cutting about 1 cm short of the opposite edges, so you don’t cut all the way and end up with a cut off narrow folded strip of paper.
(c) Turn the paper horizontally through 180 degrees so the folded edge is now away from you and the open edges are facing you. Cut across the two edges of the paper, parallel to and about 1 cm in to the right from the previous cut. As before, stop about 1 cm short of the folded edge.
(d) Repeat these last two steps ((b) and (c)), alternating between cutting in from the folded edge and the edge opposite with the two open edges, until you have cut 1 cm-wide strips across the whole width of the folded paper. Each time, keep your cuts 1 cm apart and stop cutting 1 cm before you get to the far side of the paper. When you have finished, you should have a zigzag of paper.
(e) Look along the folded edge of the paper. You should have a series of loops of paper. Cut along the fold of each of the loops except the first loop and the last loop – it is important that you leave these intact or else the trick won’t work.
(f) Gently open out the middle strips of paper, being careful not to tear them.
You should now have a loop of paper big enough for you and possibly others to climb through at once.
Emphasize the key message of this ‘magic trick’, which is that sometimes the impossible is possible – you just need to know how. Tell the children that clearly some things really are impossible – such as you leaping in the air and flying unaided to the top of a tree – but, for other things that are hard and seem impossible, instead of saying, ‘I can’t do it’, you often can say to yourself, ‘I can’t do it yet’. Give examples, such as people landing on the moon – many years ago it was said that was impossible. Another is children taking the stabilizers off their bikes for the first time – it’s hard but not impossible to ride without them when it would be easy to say ‘I can’t do it’. Perhaps it is always better to say, ‘I can’t do it yet’. This is the same for an area of maths that they may find tricky, for example.
- If there is time, you could ask the children for examples of things they can’t do yet, but they think or know they will be able to do one day.
Time for reflection
Ask the children to think about one impossible thing. Then ask them, ‘How could you manage to do that today?’
Dear God, Help me to think about all the things that I find difficult. Help me to think positively about these things and remember that, one day – perhaps tomorrow, next week, in a month or in a year – I may be able to achieve them.
‘All over the world’ (Come and Praise, 61)