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Positive words

To think about how what we say can affect people and to encourage positive and helpful talk.

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To think about how what we say can affect people and to encourage positive and helpful talk.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need to enlarge the 'build-up'/'destroy' statements (see point 3) to be attached to two volunteers, representing positive and negative.
  • Optional: Video of the final decommissioning of the Chapelcross nuclear energy cooling towers; see
  • The following facts about Chapelcross, British Nuclear Group:
    – Built in 1959.
    – Four plutonium-producing reactors.
    – Four cooling towers with water pumped from the river Annan two miles away.
    – When fully operational, it produced enough electricity to supply every home in south-west Scotland, the Borders and Cumbria.
    – Decommissioned in 2004.
    – Weight of the cooling towers was approx. 25,000 tons, made of reinforced concrete.
    – Demolition took 11 seconds and involved 6,000 mini explosions.


  1. If you can, show the video clip of the demolition of the cooling towers at Chapelcross. Give some background using the information above.

    If it’s not possible to show the video you could paint a verbal picture of the destruction or use a visual aid such as a tower of bricks or boxes that you destroy by pulling out bricks from the bottom.
  2. Explain that as you watched the devastation of these huge structures which had taken so long to build you were reminded of something that is written in the Bible. It is not about cooling towers and explosives, but about something in our bodies that is equally destructive. Any ideas?

    The Bible says this about our tongue: The tongue is a fire. The tongue is a world of evil. The tongue can corrupt the whole person. The tongue is full of deadly poison. It sounds like dynamite! Dangerous stuff!

    Tell the children not to worry, because if their tongues were only like this you would never accept them in to the school! What the writer is meaning is that our tongues can be used to destroy, like a fire or a deadly poison, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
  3. Ask for two volunteers, one to be positive, one to be negative. Read out each of the statements below and decide with the children whether they are 'build-up' (positive ) or ‘destroy’ (negative) statements. Use pins or paper clips to attach them to the appropriate child.

    I like your new shoes.
    Why do you always wear those shoes?
    That was a great story.
    That was a boring story.
    Well done.
    I don't want him in my group again.
    Thanks for helping me.
    He's no use at football.
    Of course you can play with us.
    You are so clumsy!
  4. Sometimes what happens in a person’s life is that there have been so many statements on the 'destroy' side that this causes the person to crumble, just like the Chapelcross cooling towers (or the pile of bricks).

    How the person feels about himself or herself gets damaged or even destroyed. We call this the person's self-esteem.

    It is usually a great many little explosions that add up to destroy someone's self-esteem. Some people are very sensitive and the hurtful things that others say to them stick with them for the rest of their lives. Sometimes they never get over it.

    This doesn’t mean that you have to pretend to agree with everything other people say or do. But you can be positive and say things like: ‘I know you like it but it’s not for me,’ or: ‘I didn’t find the story as exciting as you did but I can see why you like it.’ These are more positive ways of dealing with disagreements than saying things like: ‘You’re wrong,’ or: ‘You’re stupid for liking that.’

    The next time you are about to use your tongue, make sure it is not going to cause an explosion!
  5. We can all use our tongue to be encouragers. Ask the children if any of them have had something said to them today which has built them up. Be prepared with some of your own examples. Celebrate these together.

Time for reflection


As we watch this video clip again think about the power of words.


Words can be sharp.

Words can be cruel.

Words can hurt.

Words can be helpful.

Words can be kind.

Words can build up.

What words will you use today?



Dear God,

Please help us to think about the power of words.

Help us to use our words today to build people up and not to tear anyone down.



‘You can build a wall’ (Come and Praise, 91)

Publication date: October 2007   (Vol.9 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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