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Clean Slate!

A clean, fresh start

by Laurence Chilcott

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To encourage us to begin the new school year with optimism and positivity.

Preparation and materials


  1. Many years ago, when your great-grandparents were at school, they probably didn’t have lots of books to write in, or pencils, biros, felt pens and crayons to write or draw with.

    Instead, most will have used a board like this.

    Show the traditional slate board or the image of it.

    The slate board had a wooden frame and a slate face on which to write letters and numbers. Children would write with a slate pencil or chalk.

    Demonstrate writing on the traditional slate board or show the image of some writing on a traditional slate board.

  2. If anyone made a mistake on the slate board, it was easy to rub it out with a rag (or sometimes, a sleeve!) and start again.

    If possible, demonstrate by rubbing out the words on the slate board.

  3. At the end of the school day, children would ‘wipe their slates clean’, ready for a fresh start on the following day. Nothing was left of the work that they had done, so any mistakes could be forgotten the next day because the children had a clean slate. Today, people sometimes use the expression ‘wipe the slate clean’ when they are referring to a new start, when mistakes of the past will be forgotten.

  4. As we begin a new school year, everyone in school has the chance to ‘wipe the slate clean’. However, this doesn’t mean that we will all be given a slate board! Instead, it means that we all get a fresh start. Many of us will have a new teacher, most of us will have new exercise books that have never been written in before and some of us may even be starting in a new school. However, ALL of us can put behind us the mistakes of the past and begin afresh.

  5. All of our teachers will give us a fresh start. They might know a bit about us from seeing us occasionally in previous years, but all of them will want to form their own opinions and get to know us for themselves. They will make up their own minds about all of the children in their classes. This means that it is up to each of us to show our teachers how we intend to behave this year, how we intend to work, the way in which we want to get on with others and so on.

    We have a ‘clean slate’, so we can start again. All of the teachers want everyone in their class to reach their full potential, to be the best they can possibly be. They are ready to help in any way they can. However, it is up to us what we do with our ‘clean slate’.

Time for reflection

A new school year is a little bit like a new calendar year when we make New Year’s resolutions. Today, each of us has a clean slate – so let’s make the most of it!

You may wish to use the story of Zacchaeus found in the assembly ‘Tea with Me?’, which illustrates how someone took the opportunity to wipe the slate clean. The assembly is available at:

Dear God,
Thank you that today, we have a clean slate . . . a fresh start.
Help us to take the time to understand what this means.
Help us to take the opportunity to start again.
Help us to make the most of every opportunity.
Help us to try our best in every situation.
May this year be a great time of working and playing together.

Publication date: September 2018   (Vol.20 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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