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Think before you speak

by Becky May

Suitable for Key Stage 2


Encourages children to use words to build up and encourage rather than upset others.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a large tube of toothpaste and a tray to squeeze it out on to.
  • Have available the song ‘Dufus’ by Doug Horley, on his album Flabbergasted (Integrity Music, 2008), and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.


  1. Good morning. Today we’re going to be thinking about our mouths. I’ve brought this tube of toothpaste with me to help us with that, but we’re not going to be thinking about cleaning our teeth! Today’s assembly is about one thing we do with our mouths – the way we talk.

  2. Let me tell you a story. When my alarm went off this morning, I really didn’t want to get up. I was still quite tired and a bit grumpy, too! Then I heard my cat meowing and she jumped up on me. ‘Get off, you silly cat!’ I snapped. 

    Squeeze a small amount of toothpaste out of the tube on to the tray as you say the last sentence above.

    When I was ready for work, I went to catch the bus and, when I paid my fare, the driver gave me lots of small change. It was really annoying so I said, ‘Hey you! That’s really helpful, isn’t it?’

    Squeeze a little more of the toothpaste out.

    I came in to school and went to make myself a cup of coffee in the staffroom, but, when I got there, I found all the other teachers had already made their drinks and nobody had made a drink for me. So I said, ‘Thanks a lot, you selfish bunch!’ 

    Squeeze out more of the toothpaste.

    Then we came into this room for assembly and Mr/Mrs (insert name of appropriate teacher) had chosen some terrible music to play. Well I said, ‘Can you turn that music off, you have no taste at all!’ 

    Squeeze the toothpaste tube again.

    Oops! Just look at all this mess here on the tray – all the toothpaste that has been squeezed out. I know, I’ll just put it back, then it won’t be wasted. 

    Try to scoop up some of the toothpaste and push it back into the tube, demonstrating the impossibility of the task.

    Oops! I don’t seem to be able to put it back. It looks like once the toothpaste has been squeezed out of the tube, it stays out of the tube. You cannot undo what you have done, can you?

  3. The thing is, it’s just the same with the words we say. Whether we say kind or unkind things, thoughtful or snappy things, encouraging or insulting things, once we have said something, we cannot unsay it. All those unkind, grumpy, snappy things I have said to people this morning have probably upset them. I think I will have to go and apologize to them after this assembly.

  4. In the Bible, one of God’s followers, called James, wrote about this when he was giving advice to other Christians. James said that, just like a tiny spark of a flame can start a forest fire, our tongues can cause incredible damage as a result of the unkind things that we say.

    Like the toothpaste, we cannot put our words back into our mouths. It is much better if we follow some very famous advice and think before we speak, instead of blurting out our angry words or unkind insults. 

    There is one other thing we can do. James also reminds us that we can use our tongues to bring words of peace and kindness and one way we can do this is to apologize to the people we hurt when we say unkind or angry things to them.

Time for reflection

Let us make ourselves really quiet and take some time to think about the words we say to other people. Perhaps you can remember a time when you said something unkind or angry to someone else.

Let us now quietly think of some kind things that we can say to encourage other people by letting them know that we value and respect them, following the advice of James. 

Dear God.
We are sorry for the times when we blurt angry words out without thinking
and for causing upset to other people. 
Help us always to think before we speak and use our words for good,
to encourage other people and make them feel good. 


‘Dufus’ by Doug Horley

Publication date: September 2014   (Vol.16 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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