Wednesday, 26 October 2011

School assemblies - notes from The Curate.

The thought of taking a primary school assembly used to fill The Curate with dread. Despite being the son of a teacher and married to a teacher - he had very little experience of organising small people. He was away for much of the time when our own boys were small and he didn't have to do much of the organising. He bravely volunteered to hear readers at the local schools when we lived on the north coast as I suggested he need some allies for when he started to do assemblies. That way the children got to know The Curate rather than just seeing him standing at the front. It was a real eye opener for him to see how children learn and behave in the classroom. He has just received a card from some of the children he got to know very well and, as a result, he used to join them on school trips as well as hear them read in the classroom.

Since moving here, The Curate has gone from strength to strength with his primary school assemblies and he has been thinking about some of the things that he has learned along the way.

1. Small children fly........if you find them seated in the wrong place ask a teacher to move them. 
A  front row child (- the smallest in the school) was given a helping hand to move by The Curate. Being unaware of how light these children were ... his enthusiasm resulted in her being propelled a little further than intended!

2. Repetitive rhymes that tell a story are useful.- These keep the children listening for when they have to join in and they remember them and repeat them .

3. Teaching the children sign language - keeps them quiet! Two thumbs up meeting together for 'Amen' is very popular.

4. Once they trust you - schools are often very happy to hand over the assemblies. - Make sure you don't get too many.

5. Get to know the teachers - don't rush in and rush out - they always seem to have a question or want to know more.

6. Keep it simple.This is not a pulpit preaching session - even if parents are there - the reality is that they are there to see their children - not you. (unless it is a 'church' school.)

7. Watch your hand signals - you may be less aware of an alternative meaning to some of these than the children!
The Curate will not use his fingers to count - he didn't get past two on one occasion!

8. Puppets are good if you can use them - small children are fascinated to watch and listen to the puppet and not you!

9. It usually takes the children longer to come into and out of the hall than the assembly itself.

10. Beware windy days. Weather seems to affect children in very strange ways!

I am sure people reading this will have many more tips - The Curate would love to hear from them!


  1. Hello Harriet:
    The Curate is very brave indeed to venture forth into a sea of tiny tots! The tips we should endorse wholeheartedly and would add that most of them, except, perhaps for the 'flying' could equally be applied to adolescents. They are, in our experience, small children at heart too and often love the opportunity to be allowed to be so!

  2. H, I wish I'd had the curate's notes when I first started doing school assemblies (always primary). I had to learn on the job and gradually acquired the kind of skills and insights he lists.

    I used to find props helpful and spent quite a lot of time finding or making a useful collection.

    As well as repetitive rhymes I sometimes got the children to provide (carefully chosen) sound effects at appropriate places and that helped to keep them listening and involved.

    Getting the children to do actions wasn't as easy as they were usually sitting rather close together, but sometimes I could include some and they were always much enjoyed and remembered.

    Even though it's now more than 4 years since I last did an assembly, i still have a lot of material on file on my computer. Occasionally I look at some of it and remember what fun it could be to do assemblies when they worked as you hoped.

  3. Hello Jane and Lance, adolescents do need to have the some sort of fun - but the Curate finds the take a lot longer to win over and break down barriers - especially if , like many today, they have no experience of, or contact with church. Always a challenge to get alongside.
    Hello Perpetua, - Thanks for the reminder about the readings with sound effects - we had forgotten about those. They are always good fun!

  4. Dear Harriet
    Thank you for finding and joining me. I hope you will continue to enjoy what you find.

    Sorry, I have no advice for the Curate on how to best cope with a beehive of small children other than to rediscover the small child in himself and get down (I am not being patronising to children here) to their level. In my experience, putting yourself in the shoes of any other human being is always a good idea.

  5. Harriet, thank you for the compliment on the painting process. I enjoy posting them, and it quite often helps me clarify to myself what I am doing in a painting.