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Stripes and Zigzags

An anti-bullying assembly

by Liz Carter

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To consider that words can hurt, and that differences are positive things.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need three different items of clothing, such as a plain T-shirt, a popular football shirt and an unusual item such as a bright, patterned, knitted jumper. The actual items of clothing are not important as long as they are distinctly different.

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Stripes and Zigzags) and the means to display them.


  1. Invite three children or members of staff to the front and ask them either to hold or wear the items of clothing.

    Ask the children what sort of person they imagine would wear each item and what makes them think that.

  2. Explain that this assembly is going to consider how we respond to differences, and especially the words we say to others about their differences.

  3. Read the poem ‘Zak the Zigzagged Zebra’ by Liz Carter.

    Show Slide 1.

    Zak the Zigzagged Zebra
    Is going into town
    When Sam the Stripy Zebra
    Says, ‘You look like a clown!’

    Zak the Zigzagged Zebra
    Smiles and laughs and bows,
    But in his secret inside
    He has a hidden frown.

    Every day, the others
    Will throw Zak a new word.
    Sometimes, they are even
    Words he’s never heard.

    Monday, he’s called Flinkle.
    Tuesday, he is Foo.
    Wednesday, he’s a Blargle.
    Thursday feels so blue.

    Show Slide 2.

    He isn’t like the rest, you see,
    His zigzags make him strange.
    Zebras should have stripes, of course,
    So Zak thinks he should change.

    Friday is too gloomy now,
    And Zak is very gripey.
    Maybe they would like him more
    If he could just be stripy.

    Show Slide 3.

    So Zak pulls out his Sharpie
    And colours in his zags.
    He makes his zigs all straighter,
    But isn’t very glad.

    Show Slide 4.

    He creeps into the classroom
    And slumps down at his desk,
    Hears snickers, laughs and whispers
    And feels like such a mess.

    ‘Hey, Zak, your zigs are wonky,
    Your zags are all awry,’
    They cackle and they crackle.
    Zak gives a great big sigh.

    Show Slide 5.

    Then Teacher Zeb comes shushing
    And takes in zig-striped Zak.
    She gazes at the others,
    So gleeful in their pack.

    ‘Your words have bruised this zebra,
    Your jeers have caused his wounds,
    And now he’s tried to hide them.
    You need to think,’ she booms.

    The whispers turn to sadness,
    The giggles fade away.
    ‘Come on, Zak, we’re sorry.
    Want to come and play?’

    Show Slide 6.

    Sam the Stripy Zebra
    Throws Zak the class football.
    ‘I’m sorry I was mean to you.
    You’re not a clown at all.’

    Zak the Zigzagged Zebra
    Looks down at all his mess.
    ‘Will you like me better,
    If I zigzag less?’

    Sam stops and shakes his stripy head
    And points above his nose.
    ‘Look, I have a star right here.
    I’m different, as it goes.’

    ‘Ron has spots all down his legs
    And zebras should have stripes.
    Holly’s mane is like a lion’s,
    I suppose we’re all alright.’

    Then Teacher Zeb comes trotting by,
    Says, ‘No one’s just the same.
    It makes us all more wonderful.
    Now go and play your game!’

    So Zak the Zigzagged Zebra
    Goes home to have a bath.
    Lets his zigzags shine again
    And fills his face with Laugh.

  4. Ask the children what they think the poem is teaching us.

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Ask the children what they would do if they heard others saying nasty words to someone else, like Sam says to Zak.

  5. Point out that all of us are different in some way.

    Zak felt like he had to change himself so that others liked him. Encourage the children to think about the people in the items of clothing at the front of the room.

    Ask the children to consider the following questions.

    - If the person wearing the jumper really likes it and wants to wear it, but gets called names for it, should s/he stop wearing it? Does someone really have the right to decide what another person should wear?
    - What if someone supports a different football team from the person in the football top? Is the only option for them to fall out and no longer be friends?
    - Is it right to say unkind things about someone because of what they are wearing?
    - Is it right to say unkind things about someone because they look or sound different?

  6. Ask the children if they remember feeling good about themselves when someone said something kind or encouraging to them. Ask a few of them to share their experiences.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  7. Encourage the children to see that kind and positive words are a good way of helping others. If they see someone feeling sad because another person has been unkind, they could say a kind word to them – it might make a huge difference to that person’s day. That’s just what Zak’s teacher did when she saw that he was sad.

Time for reflection

Christians believe that God made us with all our differences and that God loves us as we are. So, when we say words to others, we should remember that differences are a good thing. We should also remember that words can hurt people, just like all those words hurt Zak. However, kind words can make someone feel much happier.

Read Psalm 139.14: ‘I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.’

This verse reminds us that we are all wonderfully made. If we feel like we are not as good as someone else, it is not true. We all have differences. Some are small differences and others are bigger, but those things make us who we are – they make us extra-special.

Ask the children if they can remember a time when they have hurt someone else with the words that they said. Ask the children to consider saying sorry to that person. Encourage the children to think before they speak.

Dear God,
Help me to know that I am wonderful, in all my differences.
Help me to say kind words to others.
Help me to think about other people and to remember that my words make a big difference to them.
Please help me to help those who are sad.
Thank you that your words to me are always kind.

Publication date: June 2019   (Vol.21 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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