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Turning I Can't Into I Can

To encourage a positive approach to problem solving

by The Revd Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To encourage a positive approach to problem-solving.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need: A tall glass (or narrow-necked jug) just over half filled with water.
  • Some small clean pebbles or marbles, sufficient to fill half the vessel (keep these hidden from sight).
  • Aesop's moral and the words of St Paul could be displayed on an OHP:
    'Necessity is the mother of invention.'
    'I can do everything [thumbs up] through him who gives me strength.' (Philippians 4.13)

Assembly

  1. Place the half-full glass on a table. Invite everyone to listen to the fable of Aesop, and to join in the story with 'thumbs up' when they anticipate success and 'thumbs down' when they sense failure. Explain that Aesop lived in Greece around 600 BC. His fables, or short stories, were told to help people to think about their attitudes. They were often about animals. This one is about a bird.

  2. Crow was thirsty. It was a hot summer's day and the sun had dried up every puddle of water [thumbs down]. Hopping down onto a patio, Crow spotted a large jug of water standing on a stone table. It looked cool and inviting [thumbs up]. Crow tried to drink, but the jug was only half-full and he couldn't reach the water [thumbs down].

    He twisted his neck one way and then the other. 'If only I can stretch,' thought Crow, 'I can get a sip' [thumbs up]. But soon his neck ached, his head was spinning, and his bill was as dry as ever [thumbs down].

    Then the Crow had another idea: 'Perhaps I can tip the jug over,' he thought [thumbs up]. He sidled up to the jug and pushed against it with his wing. But the jug was too heavy and, try as he might, Crow couldn't push it over [thumbs down].

  3. Invite the children to suggest alternative ways for Crow to reach the water. If no one suggests it, offer the idea of a drinking straw [thumbs up]. But there was none to be found, and have you ever seen a bird use one? [thumbs down]. Conclude: So did Crow succeed [thumbs up] or give up trying? [thumbs down]. Did he say 'I can' [thumbs up] or 'I can't'? [thumbs down].

  4. Continue the story.

    Crow thought hard. He flew to the stone path, picked up a pebble in his beak, and returned to drop it into the water. He did the same again…and again…and again! [Demonstrate with the pebbles or marbles.] And soon the water was close enough to the brim for Crow to drink! [thumbs up].

  5. Ask the children what they have learned from the story. It speaks of the value of persistence. Difficulties and challenges need to be approached with thoughtfulness and imagination. The children may know the saying: If at first you don't succeed, try, try, and try again. Aesop's moral to his story was: 'Necessity is the mother of invention.' In other words, if we really need and want to solve a problem, a way can often be found to achieve our aims. How has this proved true for members of the school community?

  6. Conclude by asking everyone to consider their response to challenges and problems. Do they say: 'I can' [thumbs up] or 'I can't'? [thumbs down]. The Bible has words of encouragement. St Paul wrote: 'I can do everything [thumbs up] through him who gives me strength' (Philippians 4.13).

Time for reflection

Dear God,
Sometimes, we need to think 'I can'
instead of saying say 'I can't'.
Sometimes we have to look at old problems in new ways.
Sometimes we must keep trying
when we feel like giving in.
Thank you for always understanding and having faith in us.
Help us to have more faith in ourselves, in others, and in you.
Through Jesus Christ
Amen.

OR

Sometimes, we need to think 'I can'
instead of saying say 'I can't'.
Sometimes we have to look at old problems in new ways.
Sometimes we must keep trying
when we feel like giving in.
Today I will send 'I can't' to the rubbish bin and stick with 'I can'.

Song/music

'He who would valiant be' (Come and Praise, 44)
'Give me oil in my lamp' (Come and Praise, 43)

Publication date: June 2004   (Vol.6 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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