The Power of Words 1: Keeping Your Eyes and Ears Open
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Sec) - Church Schools
To consider the importance of communication.
Preparation and materials
You will need three speakers and a large sign saying ‘The Power of Words’.
You will also need a picture of a long worm and the means to display it during the assembly. An example is available at: http://tinyurl.com/jgfemn6
As the assembly begins, Speakers 1 and 2 should be whispering in a huddle, looking worried. They could be prompted by a member of staff that they need to begin the assembly, but they should look very unconfident.
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 all of us, whether we realize it or not.
Speakers 1 and 2 hold up the sign saying ‘The Power of Words’. They read these words together- slowly and grandly.
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 [insert name]. What interesting things did you do during 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, breathless from running and with a big bunch of papers in his/her hand.
Speaker 3: I’m here . . . sorry. Sorry I’m late.
Speakers 1 and 2 look very relieved.
Speaker 1: We’ve just started. (To the audience) As I said before, we want you to think about a very important subject . . .
Speakers 1 and 2 point to the sign saying ‘The Power of Words’.
Speaker 3 doesn’t even look at the sign. S/he is too busy ordering the notes from which s/he begins to read - with a real enthusiasm for the subject.
Speaker 3 (grandly and seriously): 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 can wiggle its way through the hardest muddy ground.
As Speaker 3 continues talking excitedly about worms, Speakers 1 and 2 look at each other in astonishment - what on earth is s/he going on about?
Speaker 3: Some of these worms can be unbelievably long! You’ve probably all seen worms that are 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.
Show the image of the long worm.
Speaker 1 (interrupting): Er . . . excuse me . . . can I have a word with you?
The three Speakers get in a huddle, making sure that their conversation can be heard by the other students.
Speaker 2 (to Speaker 3): What are you doing?
Speaker 1 (to Speaker 3): We’re supposed to be telling them about the power of words.
Speakers 1 and 2 (together): THE POWER OF WORDS!
Speaker 3: Words? Oh dear . . . I thought you said WORMS.
Speaker 1 (to Speaker 3): WORDS!
Speaker 2 (to Speaker 3): The power of WORDS!
Speakers 1 and 2 point to the sign saying ‘The Power of Words’.
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 (with a big, beaming smile to the audience): Sorry about that . . . Slight communication problem. So now WE will tell you all about the power of words. Over to you, Speaker 2 [insert name]. 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 s/he 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.
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?
Speakers 1 and 2 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 were feeling.
Speaker 3 decides that s/he is going to deliver the talk on worms, regardless of the wishes of his/her colleagues.
Speaker 3 (to the audience): Did you know that 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 earthworm, which is the largest in the world, measuring over three 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 tons of food, but you are actually starving to death!
Speaker 2 has had enough and starts moving towards Speaker 3, to chase him/her off the stage. Speaker 3 sees him/her coming and races off the stage, yelling to the audience as s/he goes . . .
Speaker 3: And you should never try to pull worms out of their 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? S/he misheard one little word and went off on completely the wrong tangent. Suddenly, we’ve got a war on our hands.
Speaker 3 dashes onto 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 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? It pays to keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t assume that someone hears you correctly every time you try to communicate. And don’t always assume that what you hear is actually correct!
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 trouble if you explain yourself clearly and try to listen carefully, too. Ask questions if you need clarification because there is nothing more important than . . .
Speakers 1, 2 and 3 (together): 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 s/he 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? Theirs or yours?