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Think First!

Our words matter

by Becky May (revised, originally published in 2014)

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To encourage us to use words to build up and encourage others.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a large tube of toothpaste and a tray to squeeze it out on to.


  1. Show the tube of toothpaste to the children.

    Ask the children what it is and what it’s used for.

    Explain that today’s assembly isn’t going to be about cleaning our teeth. Instead, we are going to be thinking about our mouth and what we do with it: the way we talk.

  2. Explain to the children that you are going to tell them about your morning so far. (The following story is just a suggestion – you may prefer to tell the real story of your morning!)

    When my alarm went off this morning, I really didn’t want to get up. I still felt tired and I was a bit grumpy too. Then, I heard my cat meowing and she jumped up on me. ‘Get off, you silly cat!’ I snapped.

    Squeeze a small amount of toothpaste on to the tray as you say the last sentence above.

    After dressing, I went downstairs and took the cereal box out of the cupboard. To my horror, it was empty! Someone in my house had eaten the last of the cereal and put the empty box back in the cupboard. ‘Who is responsible for this?’ I shouted.

    Squeeze out a little more of the toothpaste.

    When I reached school, I went to get a cup of coffee from the staffroom. However, when I arrived, I discovered that all of the other teachers had already made their drinks. Nobody had made a drink for me and there was no milk left. ‘Thanks a lot, that’s really selfish,’ I muttered as I stalked off.

    Squeeze out more of the toothpaste.

    Then, we came into this room for assembly and (insert the name of the appropriate teacher) was playing some music that I don’t like very much. With a frown, I said, ‘Can’t you turn that music off? You have no taste at all!’

    Squeeze the toothpaste tube again.

    Oops! Just look at all this mess on the tray – I’ve squeezed out loads of toothpaste. I know, I’ll just put it back, so it won’t be wasted.

    Try to scoop up some of the toothpaste and push it back into the tube, demonstrating the impossibility of the task.

    Oh no! I don’t seem to be able to put it back. It seems that after the toothpaste has been squeezed out of the tube, it stays out.

  3. Ask the children whether they could get the toothpaste back in the tube.

    If appropriate, you could ask some children to come to the front to try.

    Say to the children, ‘We can’t undo what we’ve done, can we?’

  4. The same is true with the words that we say. Whether we say kind or unkind things, thoughtful or snappy things, encouraging or insulting things, after we have said something, we cannot unsay it. All those unkind, grumpy, snappy things that I said to people this morning have probably upset them. I think I’ll have to apologize to them after this assembly.

Time for reflection

In the Bible, James, one of God’s followers, said that just like a tiny spark of a flame can start a forest fire, so our tongues can cause incredible damage as a result of the unkind things that we say.

Just as we can’t put toothpaste back into its tube, we can’t put our words back into our mouths. It is much better if we think before we speak, rather than blurting out angry words or unkind insults.

There is one other thing we can do. James reminds us that we can use our tongues to bring words of peace and kindness. One way in which we can do this is to apologize to the people we hurt when we say unkind or angry things to them.

Let’s make ourselves really quiet and take some time to think about the words that we say to other people. Perhaps we can remember a time when we said something unkind or angry to someone else. Let’s think about whether we should say sorry to someone for the words that we said.

Let’s think quietly of some kind things that we can say to encourage other people by letting them know that we value and respect them, following James’ advice.

Let’s make it our aim to say something kind and encouraging to someone today.

Dear God,
We are sorry for the times when we blurt out angry words without thinking and upset other people.
Please help us always to think before we speak.
Please help us to use our words for good.
Please help us to encourage others and help them to feel good.

Publication date: June 2022   (Vol.24 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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