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A Great Variety of Uses!

How we use our words matters

by Rebecca Parkinson (revised, originally published in 2008)

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To encourage us to think about how we use words and explore how what we say can be helpful or destructive.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a variety of objects that can be used for both good and bad purposes, such as matches (store carefully), water, medicine (an empty bottle or pill packet) and a whistle.


  1. Show the children one object at a time and ask them what helpful purpose each object has.

    For example, a match can be used to light a fire to keep us warm, to light a candle so that we can see during a power cut or to light the candles on a birthday cake. Water can be used to clean us or to quench our thirst. Medicine can take away pain to help us feel better or to get rid of an infection. A whistle can be used to referee a sports match or to signal to children to line up at playtime.

  2. Now ask the children to look at the objects again and think of unhelpful or even harmful ways in which they could be used. For example, a match could burn someone’s fingers or cause a serious fire. Water can cause great damage if there is too much of it, as in floods. Medicine can be harmful if a person takes too much of it. Also, if someone took the wrong medicine, it could make them ill. If a whistle is blown too loudly near someone’s ears, it could hurt them.

  3. Explain that many things have uses that are both helpful and harmful. Ask the children if they can think of any of their own examples.

  4. Suggest that words can also be used both helpfully and unhelpfully. We can speak kind, encouraging, gentle, friendly words or we can speak hurtful, nasty, unkind words. We have a choice, and we can decide how to use our power of speech.

  5. Ask the children to think of times when they have been hurt or upset by hurtful words. Then, ask them to think of a time when somebody made them feel happy by the kind words they used – some children may want to share the helpful experiences.

Time for reflection

Invite the children to close their eyes and think of a time when they have been helped or made happy by something somebody has said to them.

Ask them to think about the way they felt. Ask them to think about how it would feel if their words could make other people feel wonderful.

Encourage them to decide to say something today to someone that will make the other person feel good.

Dear God,
Thank you for giving us the ability to speak.
Please help us always to use our mouths to say helpful things.
Help us today to make someone feel good by what we say to them.


The prayer of St Francis (Make me a channel of your peace)’ (Come and Praise, 147)

Publication date: January 2019   (Vol.21 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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