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Being a Smarty

Setting achievable goals

by Janice Ross (revised, originally published in 2010)

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To consider the importance of setting realistic and achievable goals.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need to familiarize yourself with the story in the ‘Assembly’, Step 1.

  • You will also need to display the following words.


  • Have available some images of McCaig’s Tower in Oban, Scotland, and the means to display them during the assembly. Examples are available at: and

  • Optional: you may wish to use the Bible passage at Luke 14.28–30. You may also wish to ask a child to read out this passage.


  1. Tell the children the following story.

    Spring Cleaning

    Mrs Smith and Mrs Jones were next-door neighbours. They both liked tidy houses, tidy gardens and tidy children. One day, as the early, watery spring sun shone into her home, Mrs Smith remarked to herself, ‘Oh goodness, look at the dust! It’s time to start spring cleaning.’

    Strangely enough, Mrs Jones was having the very same thought as she noticed the smudge on her dining-room window.

    Mrs Smith put on her apron and rubber gloves straightaway, and started on the dust in her dining room. First, she pulled all the chairs into the hall and swept and washed the dining-room floor. Then, she took all the china out of the sideboard and put the cups and saucers to soak in the washing-up bowl. Next, she polished the cabinet. After that, she took down the curtains from the window and put them in the washing machine.

    Leaving the floor to dry, she went upstairs to start on the bedrooms. First, she pulled the sheets and duvet covers off all five beds and took them down to the washing machine. Of course, this wash would have to wait until the curtains were finished, so she dropped the bedding in a big heap on the kitchen floor.

    Next, she went back upstairs and decided that she would go through every wardrobe, laying out all of the clothes that were too small or too old. These could go to the charity shop tomorrow. She made heaps of jumpers and trousers and coats and vests all over the beds. Then, she spotted some books under Jamie’s bed, so she decided to pull out the bunk beds. She fetched a bin liner and filled it with the apple cores, odd socks and chewed paper that she found there, before going on to give the carpet a good vacuuming.
    Glancing at the clock, she got a big fright! ‘Oh my goodness, it’s never three o’clock already!’ she exclaimed. She rushed down the stairs, threw on her coat, snatched up the car keys, went out and shut the door on her no-longer-so-tidy house. Later, her children remarked, ‘What’s happened here? We’ve never seen the house in such a mess!’ Poor Mrs Smith!

    Mrs Jones, on the other hand, was a SMART cookie. She realized the importance of planning her work. She knew that first, she should identify what she might hope to achieve that day. After all, as the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day. With a young family like hers, it was extremely unlikely that she would manage to clean the whole house in one go, even if she stayed up half the night. How much could she really get done before everyone returned from school?

    Mrs Jones put the kettle on, made a cup of coffee, took a pen and some paper and wrote down these words:


    ‘OK,’ she said to herself, ‘I’ve got about three hours before I need to collect Ben from nursery. I’ll start upstairs with the bedrooms and work my way down over the next two weeks. Our room will be the first. That one will certainly take three hours!’

    Mrs Jones decided that she would probably need to pull out the bed and vacuum. Then, she would go through the wardrobe and drawers and make a pile of clothes for the charity shop. Next, she would take down the curtains to wash them, if she had time. ‘Right, I think I might manage all those tasks today,’ said Mrs Jones. ‘Oh, and perhaps I might just have time to clean that smudgy dining-room window, too.’

  2. Explain to the children that this is an amusing story, but it has an important message for everyone at school, children and teachers alike. Ask the children for any suggestions as to what this might be. Encourage any answers that mention setting goals or targets, and not needing to achieve everything in one day.

    Point out that the Reception class may learn one new sound today. There will be many more for them to learn in the days to come, but one will be enough for today. They can be SMARTIES, that is, people who attempt Short, Manageable, Achievable, Realistic Targets.

    Year 1 may be practising cursive writing today. They will not have learned how to join every letter to every other letter yet, but one more join today will make them SMARTIES, that is, people who attempt Short, Manageable, Achievable, Realistic Targets.

  3. Try to find other examples that are appropriate to activities going on in different classes in your school. Explain that it is always wise to identify manageable, achievable and realistic learning goals.

  4. Explain that the idea of being a SMARTY isn’t a new one. Jesus taught his disciples all about the importance of setting realistic and manageable goals.

    Optional: ask a child to read Luke 14.28–30.

Time for reflection

Show the images of McCaig’s Tower in Oban, Scotland.

The skyline above the town of Oban, Argyll, is dominated by a building that looks like a replica of the Colosseum in Rome. It is known locally as McCaig’s Tower, but many Scots are more familiar with the term McCaig’s Folly. Building work started in 1897, and was overseen by John Stuart McCaig, a local banker. The building was erected at a cost of £5,000 (over £600,000 in today’s money). The plan had been to have a museum, an art gallery and statues of McCaig’s family inside the building, but the money ran out after McCaig’s death. McCaig’s Tower reminds everyone who sees it of the importance of setting realistic and achievable goals.

Think for a few moments about this new day.

Let’s think about an area of work that we will be involved in today, or some part of our character that we may have been working on. Let’s set ourselves SMART targets, remembering to be realistic and to set achievable goals.

Dear God,
Today is a new day, a day of new opportunities, a day for success.
Please help us to be realistic about what we want to achieve today.
At the end of today, we would like to be able to celebrate success in achieving this goal.


‘Spirit of God’ (Come and Praise, 63)

Publication date: June 2018   (Vol.20 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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