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Powerful Words

Use them carefully!

by Manon Ceridwen Parry (revised, originally published in 2012)

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To encourage us to think about the power of words and how they can both harm and heal.

Preparation and materials


  1. Explore with the children the power of words. Tell them that, just by saying one word, you may be able to change how they feel.

    Give everyone a moment to take in what you have said. Do they believe you?

  2. Now, say a few words and see what reaction you get from the children!

    Examples might include ‘chocolate’, ‘snow’, ‘holidays’, ‘school trip’ and so on.

  3. Ask the children how they felt after hearing each word. For example, maybe ‘chocolate’ made them feel hungry, warm or fuzzy. Maybe the word placed a picture in their minds of their favourite chocolate bar.

    Likewise, maybe the word ‘snow’ made them feel cold or excited.

  4. Explain that with our words, we can change not just people’s feelings, but people themselves. For example, a minister or priest can change people’s lives just by saying a few words. That’s not to say that a minister can change someone into a frog - it’s not like magic! But a minister can conduct weddings, and when s/he says, ‘I therefore proclaim that you are husband and wife,’ the minister is actually changing the people from being two separate single people into a married couple.

    Another example is in a law court. When a jury or a judge declares someone guilty or not guilty, that person’s life is changed forever. Doctors too sometimes have to give patients good or bad news that could change their lives.

    Words are powerful.

  5. There’s another group of people who know the power of words: poets. Poetry can make us feel different things and poets know this. In 2005, a poem called ‘Human beings’ by Adrian Mitchell was voted the poem that most people would like to see launched into space.

    Show the poem ‘Human beings’.

    This poem is written for everyone, not particularly for children, and it’s a difficult poem in many ways. It has some difficult ideas in it, such as war. But the message of the poem is clear: we should remember that no matter how different we are from one another, we are all human.

Time for reflection

Reiterate that words have power.

Ask the children whether they think that the words that we say to one another are powerful.

Listen to a range of responses.

Point out that the words that we say affect other people. We have the power to hurt people and make them sad, but we also have the power to make others feel happy and good about themselves.

Ask the children, ‘How can we use our words to make people feel good and happy?’

Pause to allow time for thought and listen to a range of responses.

Ask the children, ‘What must we not do with words?’

Pause to allow time for thought and listen to a range of responses.

Suggestions may include saying nasty things to people, making people feel bad and so on.

We may not have the power of a judge, a doctor or a minister, but our words are powerful just the same.

Reread some of your favourite sections of the poem.

Dear God,
We know that words have power.
Please help us today to use our words carefully.
Help us to encourage each other and build each other up.
Please help us never to be unkind or hurt people with our words.

Publication date: May 2021   (Vol.23 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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