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Don't Be Fooled By Appearances

To investigate the idea that appearances can be deceptive

by Gill O'Neill

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To investigate the idea that appearances can be deceptive.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a television remote control.
  • You could prepare six children to read each of the middle six verses of the poem, using a microphone to complete the image.


  1. Introduce the readers, if you are using them, and explain that they are representing newsreaders on six different television channels. Use the remote control to indicate changing channels between each verse of the poem.

  2. Television and the Elephant

    Six TV crews jumped all the queues
    to film it for the news.
    Each camera shot the elephant,
    each sent back its views.
    Meanwhile the elephant, herself,
    was totally bemused.

    On Channel 1 its side was shown.
    The man began to drawl,
    'It's wrinkly, grey and flat and big,
    and vertical and tall.
    You see,' said he, 'The elephant
    is just a concrete wall.'

    When Channel 2 came into view
    tusk pictures were quite clear.
    They glinted, sharp, still, long and white,
    like ivory, my dear.
    'You see, the elephant,' she said,
    'is just a pointed spear.'

    On Channel 3 the trunk swayed free,
    a curl, a wave, a shake.
    It wriggled, twisted, danced around,
    'It's lively, no mistake.
    You'll realize,' the newsman said,
    'The elephant's a long, grey snake.'

    On Channel 4 the huge leg bore
    resemblance, you could see,
    to something sturdy, broad and tall.
    'It's obvious to me,'
    the news girl said without surprise,
    'It's just another tree.'

    On Channel 5 the ear shown live
    by an excited man:
    'It flaps, it's flat, it's just like that,
    it wafts about, it can!
    And what we have in front of us…
    is a rather fancy fan!'

    On Channel 6, the tail pics,
    we saw the newsman grope.
    It hung, it swung, quite long and strong.
    'It's clear to any dope,
    this creature called an elephant
    is nothing but a rope.'

    People tuned to different channels,
    and argued loud and long.
    Though none has seen an elephant,
    each holds their views so strong.
    And each is partly in the right
    but all are in the wrong.

  3. Explain that the reason people got the wrong impression (a wall, a spear, a snake, a tree, a fan, a rope) was because they couldn't see the whole of the elephant, only bits.

    Sometimes it's like that for us. Perhaps a teacher only sees one view of you because you don't show your full abilities. Perhaps you get into arguments because you've only seen or heard one side of the story. Appearances can be deceptive.

Time for reflection

Ask the children to close their eyes and think about a time when they have made a judgement about someone from their first impressions of them. Ask them to think of a time when they have made up their mind about what someone will be like based upon that person's appearance. Encourage them to think about the times when they have not shown their 'best side' to people around them.

Dear God,
Help us not to be quick to judge,
but to take time to see the full picture in every situation.
Help us too to show our 'best side' at all times.


'He gave me eyes' (Come and Praise, 18)

Publication date: November 2003   (Vol.5 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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