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Backwards and Forwards

What’s behind the New Year door?

by Laurence Chilcott

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To consider the challenges and opportunities that the new year brings.

Preparation and materials

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


  1. Show Slide 1.

    The slide shows a picture of the Roman god, Janus. Ask the children what they think Janus could be the god of.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  2. Point out that teachers sometimes tell children that they have eyes in the back of their head. There are times when it can feel like teachers can tell what is happening in the classroom even if they are facing the other way.

    The Roman god, Janus, was depicted with not just eyes, but a full face in the back of his head! Janus was known as the god of doors and doorways, and it was thought that because he had two faces, he could see forwards and backwards at the same time. In fact, January - the first month of the year - is named after him. In January, we often take the time to look backwards at the previous year and forwards towards the future.

  3. Show Slides 2–5.

    Ask the children whether they recognize the doors on the slides. If they do, ask them to tell the other children about them.

    - Slide 2 shows the Gringotts vault door from the film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
    - Slide 3 shows the door to the Great Hall from the Harry Potter films.
    - Slide 4 shows the door of 10 Downing Street, the home of the prime minister.
    - Slide 5 shows the door of Bilbo Baggins’ house from the film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

  4. Show Slides 6–9.
    Ask the children to look at the different doors and imagine what could be behind them. Ask them to think about why the doors look the way they do. Encourage them to use their imaginations!

  5. Explain that the new year is often regarded as an unopened door because we are uncertain about what we may find on the other side. We may have some idea of what lies behind a door, but we cant be certain: behind the reinforced steel door of a safe, we might expect to find precious jewels or banknotes, but it may be empty; behind a secret door in the library of a stately home, we might expect to find a secret passage, but there may be just a dusty cupboard full of cobwebs; the huge, black, nailed door to a castle may open not to knights in armour, but to sad ruins and leaning towers.

  6. As we stand before the door of the new year, it is closed to us, but we hope that when it is opened, we will not be disappointed.

  7. Point out that people often try to get the new year off to a good start by making resolutions. For example, we could resolve to keep our bedrooms tidy, be more helpful round the house, do our homework without complaining or do something kind at least once every day.

Time for reflection

As the new year begins, encourage the children to think about what they could do to make 2020 a great year for those around them. How could they make their home a happier place? How could they help their friends?

Ask the children, ‘What would the world be like if everyone thought about the effect that their actions might have on other people?’

Listen to a range of responses.

Encourage the children to pause and think about the past year. Ask them to think about changes that they would like to make. Maybe they would like to work harder, have a go at a new sport or make some new friends.

Encourage the children to think about how they could make this year better for the people who are close to them.

Dear God,
Thank you for everything that we learn from experiences in the past.
Thank you that we can now look forward in excitement to the coming year.
Thank you for fresh starts.
Thank you for all the opportunities that this new year will bring.
Please help us to treat people well this year.
Please help us to do what is good, right and fair.
May we treat others with love.
May we encourage peace.

Publication date: January 2020   (Vol.22 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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