The Power of Words 1
Keeping your eyes and ears open
by An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To reflect on communication: how we listen, and whether we really understand properly.
Preparation and materials
- You could enlist the services of three of the older school clowns for this presentation. They have the options of learning the words, reading from a script or improvising around the theme. At least one of them should be a good runner.
- You'll also need a big sign or slide: 'THE POWER OF WORDS!'
- If you're interested, you can find a few pictures and more information about worms at these sites: www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/worms/; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worm.
- Download a picture of a long worm.
Speakers 1 and 2 are in a huddle trying to find a way to save their bacon. They realize they have no option but to begin the collective worship – perhaps they are prompted by a member of staff to get on with it – but they don't look too confident.
Speaker 1: This morning we want to talk to you about a very important subject.
Speaker 2: It's a subject that's important to us all whether we realize it or not.
Speakers 1 and 2 indicate a sign: 'THE POWER OF WORDS!’
Speakers 1 and 2 together: (grandly) THE POWER OF WORDS!
Speaker 1: Unfortunately, the person who was supposed to do all the research for this hasn't turned up – so we're a bit stuck.
Speaker 2: (coming up with a not very brilliant idea) So, instead we're going to talk about interesting things that happened during our last holiday. Over to you, __________ (Speaker 1's name). What interesting things did you do in your last holiday?
Speaker 1 is not amused to be dumped in it like this, but takes the plunge.
Speaker 1: During the last holidays I . . . er . . . well . . . er . . .
Speaker 3 dashes onto the stage. He or she is breathless from running and has a big bunch of papers in his or her hand.
Speaker 3: I'm here . . . sorry. Sorry I'm late.
Speakers 1 and 2 are very relieved.
Speaker 1: We've just started. (to audience) As I said before, we want you to think about a very important subject . . .
Speakers 1 and 2 indicate the sign again: THE POWER OF WORDS!
Speaker 3 doesn't even look at the sign; he or she is too busy ordering the notes and beginning to read, with a real enthusiasm for the subject . . .
Speaker 3: (grandly) THE POWER OF WORMS: The power of worms is quite astonishing. There are at least 6,000 species of worms in the world and about half are earthworms. Worms can live their whole life underground without ever coming to the surface. Even the common garden worm has the ability to wiggle its way through even the hardest muddy ground.
As Speaker 3 continues talking excitedly about worms, Speakers 1 and 2 are starting to look concerned – what on earth is Speaker 3 going on about?
Speaker 3: Some of these worms can be unbelievably long! You've probably all seen worms about 10 or 15 centimetres long, but in one book I looked at there was a photo of a worm that was over 70 centimetres long.
Speakers 1 and 2 realize something is wrong and decide to stop it going too far.
Speaker 1: (interrupting) Er . . . Excuse me . . . Can I have a word with you?
In a huddle . . .
Speaker 2: What are you doing?
Speaker 1: We're supposed to be telling them about the power of words.
Speakers 1 and 2 again indicate the sign: THE POWER OF WORDS!
Speakers 1 and 2 together. (grandly) THE POWER OF WORDS!!
Speaker 3: Words? I thought you said WORMS!
Speaker 1: WORDS!!
Speaker 2: The power of WORDS!!
Speaker 3 looks worried. Speakers 1 and 2 return to the front of the stage and try to save the show:
Speaker 1: (big beaming smile to audience) Sorry about that . . . Slight communication problem. So now we will tell you all about the power of words. Over to you, ________ (Speaker 2's name). Please tell us everything you know about (grandly) THE POWER OF WORDS!
Speaker 2 is not amused to be dumped in it, but takes the plunge.
Speaker 2: (making it up as he or she goes along) Well . . . words are really important. Words are . . . a way of communicating whatever we need to . . . er . . . communicate. Aren't they?
Speaker 3, still crestfallen, interrupts.
Speaker 3: Worms are really interesting, you know. I was in the library for two hours finding out about worms.
Speakers 1 and 2 are conscious of many eyes on them.
Speaker 2: (hissing a warning) Shut up! We're doing 'words'.
Speaker 3: (hissing back) You weren't too interested in 'words' when we realized somebody would have to go to the library and research it. Where were you then?
They ignore Speaker 3.
Speaker 1: If we didn't have words we wouldn’t be able to communicate – we wouldn’t understand what other people were thinking. They wouldn't know how we are feeling.
Speaker 3 decides he or she is going to deliver the talk on worms regardless of the wishes of his or her colleagues.
Speaker 3: (to audience) Did you know there is actually a museum dedicated to worms. It's in Australia.
Speaker 3 ruffles through papers to find the notes about the museum.
Speaker 2: Without words we wouldn't have languages and . . .
Speaker 3: (interrupting) Here we are – (reading) over 300 different species have been identified in Australia, including the giant Gippsland Worm – the largest in the world – measuring over 3 metres. Can you imagine that – a worm over three metres long with a diameter exceeding 15 centimetres? Yuck!
Speaker 1: Are you deliberately trying to get us into trouble?
Speaker 2: (getting annoyed) Just shut up, will you?!
Speaker 3 ignores them.
Speaker 3: But, if you ask me, the most disgusting sort of worms are the ones that grow inside human beings. They are called tapeworms and they live in your intestines . . .
Speaker 2: (more annoyed) If you don't shut up . . .!
Speaker 3: . . . and they eat everything you eat – so you're hungry all the time and eat tonnes of food but are actually starving to death!!
Speaker 2 has had enough and starts moving towards Speaker 3, to chase him or her off the stage.
Speaker 3 sees him or her coming and races off the stage, yelling to the audience as he or she goes . . .
Speaker 3: And you should never try to pull a worm out of its hole because they snap easily and make a horrible sticky mess on your hands!!
Speaker 1 is left alone.
Speaker 1: See what's happening here? He or she misheard one little word and went off on the completely wrong tangent. Suddenly we've got a war on our hands.
Speaker 3 dashes on to the stage – still being chased by Speaker 2. Speaker 3 manages to yell a final thought at the audience before being chased off the stage again.
Speaker 3: And just remember – if you meet a giant three-metre-long worm – be very nice to it because you are crunchy and taste good with tomato sauce!!!!
Speaker 2: You've ruined the whole thing. If I catch you, you're in big trouble. Come back here, you worm!!!!
Speaker 1 is left alone again.
Speaker 1: Communication errors are happening in the world all the time. See how important the best choice of words can be? So it pays to keep your eyes and ears open. Don't assume someone hears you correctly every time you try to communicate.
Speakers 2 and 3 enter and join Speaker 1 for the final moment of the presentation.
Speaker 1: It could save everybody a lot of problems if you explain yourself clearly and try to listen carefully too. Ask questions if you need clarification because there is nothing more important than . . .
(all speakers indicate the sign . . .)
All Speakers: (grandly) THE POWER OF WORDS!!!!
Time for reflection
Jesus said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’
Sometimes we hear, but do we always listen? And do we always understand properly?
Have a think about the last time you had a row with your best friend. Was it caused because he or she simply didn't understand what you were saying clearly enough? Did you really understand what your friend was saying?
Whose problem was that breakdown in communication? Your friend’s or yours?