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True friends

by Alison Thurlow

Suitable for Key Stage 1


To encourage children to think about what qualities make someone a good friend.

Preparation and materials

  • Note that the story in Step 4 is adapted from ‘The Tortoise and the Fox’, The Lion Storyteller Book of Animal Tales by Bob Hartman, Lion Hudson 2011).
  • You could gather images of a fox, tortoise and leopard and have the means to display them during the story in Step 4 of the assembly, but this is optional.
  • If possible, have available the song ‘If you know God’s love’ by Chris Medway, on 250 Songs for Children’s Praise and Worship (Kingsway, 2006) and the means to play it at the end of the assembly, but this, too, is optional and an alternative is given in ‘Song’ at the end of the text below.
  • If you are going to play the song ‘If you know God’s love’, devise and familiarize yourself with an easy hand jive to do along to it.


  1. Explain that, in this assembly, you’re going to be thinking about what makes someone a good friend. First, you’re going to start off with a little quiz.

    Explain that you will be saying some things that could be true about a good friend and they are to let you know whether or not they agree with you by voting with their thumbs. If they agree, they should give you a thumbs up. 


    If they disagree, they should give you a thumbs down.


    If they are not sure, they should hold their thumbs out horizontally.


  2. Operate the quiz as follows. A good friend should be:

    good at listening
    good at playing football
    somebody who gives me a second chance

  3. Thank the children for taking part in the quiz and point out that they all tended to agree, there are some things which it is very important for friends to be and other things are less important.

  4. Say that they are now going to hear a story about two very good friends and it’s a fable – that is, a short story, often featuring animals, as in this case – that comes from India.

    Fox, Tortoise and Leopard

    It was rather unusual for Fox and Tortoise to be such good friends because they were so different: Fox was clever and quick, but Tortoise was heavy and slow. However, they loved being together, they laughed a lot and their differences didn’t seem to matter at all.

    One evening, when they were sitting and chatting by the riverside, handsome and dangerous Leopard leapt out of the bushes. Fox saw him immediately and jumped away from Leopard’s sharp claws. Poor old Tortoise was too slow, so he just pulled his head into his lumpy shell and hoped for the best.

    Leopard was hungry, so he scooped Tortoise into his paws and started scratching at his shell. Inside, Tortoise shuddered and, outside, hiding behind a tree, Fox shuddered, too!

    Then, Leopard started gnawing away at Tortoise’s shell until he heard Fox shouting at him:

    ‘Stop, Leopard! You’re doing that all wrong! I’m an expert at this sort of thing! That’s not how to eat Tortoise!’

    ‘Oh no!’ thought Tortoise. ‘Is my friend really going to tell Leopard how to eat me?’

    ‘Before you can eat Tortoise, you need to soften his shell’, continued Fox. ‘So just throw Tortoise into the river and the water will make his shell softer.’

    Although Leopard was handsome and dangerous, he was not very clever, so he did exactly as Fox told him to and threw Tortoise into the river. As soon as Tortoise hit the bottom, he stretched out his little legs, poked his head out and sneaked away along the riverbed.

    ‘How long should I wait?’ Leopard asked Fox, as he noticed that the sun was starting to set.

    ‘Until dark’, Fox replied. ‘The darker the better!’

    So Leopard waited till midnight, getting hungrier and angrier. Eventually he realized that he had been tricked and he never would have his Tortoise dinner.

    Fox and Leopard, however, had one more thing to joke and laugh about together!

Time for reflection

Remind the children that, in the story, Fox was very kind and caring towards his friend Tortoise and really helped him when he was in a spot of bother. This attitude of caring for others, especially people who are not as fortunate as us, is the same attitude we see in Jesus, in the way he treats other people in so many of the stories about him in the Bible. One piece of advice we can find in the Bible is this:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
(Ephesians 4.32, NIV)

This still seems like good advice today. Ask the children if they could all make an effort this week to be extra kind and caring so that everyone in school will know what it is like to have a really good friend.

Lord Jesus,
Thank you that you were kind and caring to all the people you met.
Please help me to be kind and caring, too.


‘If you know God’s love’ by Chris Medway or ‘Simple gifts’ (Come and Praise, 97)

Publication date: May 2014   (Vol.16 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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