Assembly point - Paddle power

This fun game can make a serious point about the importance of looking after school equipment, says Irfan Shah

Many teachers have had the dispiriting experience of picking up a pupil's exercise book and finding its covers torn and ink stained and various pages missing or covered in graffiti. But how do you balance providing children who have little parental support with pens and pencils alongside encouraging them to take more responsibility for themselves?

This assembly is a way to show how valuable it is to look after their books, bags and pencils, in fact everything that they take with them through their school day.

At the front of the hall, place a table-tennis table plus net, bats, and balls or some other sport paraphernalia that could be fun to watch without getting too out of hand.

Ask two volunteers to come and play in front of the assembled pupils. As they begin their game it will become apparent that one is winning most of the points. It will also be apparent that the loser's bat has been tampered with and is woefully inadequate. You could have a little fun with how extreme you want this damage to be - it could not only increase the comedy value but save the pupil's blushes by making it obvious that it is not them but the equipment that is the problem.

Allow them to play for a minute or so - perhaps even have a short go with the faulty bat yourself - and let the assembly laugh and soak up the spectacle.

Stop the game and ask the assembly why they thought player A beat player B and hopefully elicit the obvious answer.

Now, tie everything together. Explain that a table tennis player relies on their bat being looked after and in good condition and that even the best player puts themselves at a disadvantage when their equipment is neglected.

Explain that this is also the case with every pupil and their books, bags, pens and pencils. Tell them that these are the tools that see them through lessons and that it matters how they look after them.

This assembly should be fun and funny, but has an important point to make about responsibility and self-reliance and is as pertinent to 11-year-olds as it is to 17-year-olds.

Irfan Shah is a key stage 3 English teacher from Leeds.

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