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All Pulling Together

Lessons from the story of the enormous turnip

by Revd Alan M. Barker (revised, originally published in 2000)

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To explore the need for cooperation, and to consider that every contribution to shared effort can be vital.

Preparation and materials

  • For the ‘Assembly’, Step 3, you will need eight children to perform the drama and three animal masks to portray the dog, cat and mouse. The drama will need to be practised prior to the assembly.

    The characters in the drama are Narrator (this can be the assembly leader or a child), Farmer, Farmer’s Partner, Farmer’s Son, Farmer’s Daughter, Dog, Cat and Mouse. The last three characters should wear the appropriate animal masks. Please be aware of health and safety considerations when pretending to pull up the turnip.

  • Optional: there is a useful biblical link to this assembly. In 1 Corinthians 3, there is a debate mentioned about two church leaders called Paul and Apollos. Some people think that one is more important than the other. However, Paul says that everyone has a part to play in God’s work: ‘For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it.’

    This passage could be used as appropriate to the school.


  1. Ask the children if any of them know what the term ‘DIY’ stands for.

    Ask them if they can think of any DIY tasks that one person can do by themselves, such as decorating, assembling furniture or gardening.

    Ask the children if they have ever helped with a DIY task. Can they think of any tasks that are too big for one person to undertake alone? Examples could include constructing a garden shed, building a house extension or carrying heavy items.

  2. Point out that some tasks can be achieved by one person working alone, whereas others require the help and energy of several people working together. Cooperation is vital. Explain that this is true in many areas of life, as the following story shows.

  3. The Story of the Enormous Turnip

    (The characters gradually form a chain by taking hold of one another as the story is narrated. Audience participation can be invited; ask everyone to give the encouragement to ‘PULL’ after the phrase ‘they pulled’. The narration may be undertaken by the assembly leader, or other children.)

    Once upon a time, a farmer sowed some turnip seed in his garden. After a few days, some shoots began to show, but one seed grew faster than all the rest. It grew and grew and did not stop growing, until the leaves were like a bush and the most enormous turnip had formed beneath the ground.

    The time came when the farmer decided to pull up the enormous turnip to eat. Going to the vegetable patch, he rolled up his sleeves and took a firm grasp of the turnip stem. Then, he pulled (PULL!), and he pulled (PULL!), and he pulled (PULL!), but he couldn’t pull up the enormous turnip.

    The farmer called to his partner: ‘Please could you come and help me?’ The farmer’s partner held on to his waist and together they pulled (PULL!), and they pulled (PULL!), and they pulled (PULL!), but they still couldn’t pull up the turnip.

    The farmer’s partner called to their son: ‘Please could you come and help us?’ So, the son joined the line and together they pulled (PULL!), and they pulled (PULL!), and they pulled (PULL!), but they still couldn’t pull up the turnip.

    Then, the farmer’s son called to his sister: ‘Please could you come and help us?’ So, the farmer’s daughter joined the line and together they pulled (PULL!), and they pulled (PULL!), and they pulled (PULL!), but the enormous turnip still remained in the ground.

    A friendly dog stopped at the garden gate. The farmer’s daughter called out: ‘Please could you come and help us?’ So, the dog came and joined the line and together they pulled (PULL!), and they pulled (PULL!), and they pulled (PULL!), but the enormous turnip still would not budge.

    By now, everyone was getting very hot and tired. When a cat walked down the path, the dog barked: ‘Please could you come and help us?’ Taking hold of the dog’s tail, the cat joined the line and together they pulled (PULL!), and they pulled (PULL!), and they pulled (PULL!), but they couldn’t pull up the enormous turnip.

    Just then, a mouse scuttled out from underneath the hedge. Instead of chasing it, the cat miaowed: ‘Please could you come and help us?’
    ‘A mouse?’ exclaimed the others. ‘A mouse? What difference will a mouse make?’
    But the mouse cautiously took hold of the cat’s tail and together they pulled (PULL!), and they pulled (PULL!), and they pulled (PULL!), and again with all their might they pulled (PULL!). Suddenly, the enormous turnip flew out of the ground and they all tumbled in a heap!

    The farmer and his partner carried the turnip to their house and used it to cook a vegetable stew. At supper time, there was more than enough to eat for every one of them. Even the dog and the cat and - don’t forget - the mouse!

Time for reflection

Ask the children what they think this story is trying to teach us.

Listen to a range of responses.

Explain that when we meet with a huge challenge or are faced with a big task, it’s important to pull together. Everyone’s effort is crucial and, just like the mouse in the story, the smallest help can make all the difference. Ask the children to think about how they can work together with others today.

Ask the children to think about times when someone has done something that has helped them. Often, these are not enormous things: maybe someone has helped them when they fell over or been kind to them when they were feeling sad. Ask the children to look for little things that they can do today, which might make a big difference to other people.

Dear God,
Please help us to learn to work together.
May we never be too proud to ask for help, nor too hesitant to give it.
Thank you for the ways in which we will help (have helped) one another today.


‘Give me oil in my lamp’ (Come and Praise, 43)

Optional: you may wish to use the YouTube video ‘Working Together Again | Steam Team Sing Alongs | Thomas & Friends’, in which case you will also need the means to show it. It is 2.21 minutes long and is available at:

Publication date: June 2020   (Vol.22 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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