Making Assemblies Matter
What is your abiding memory of school assemblies? A boring, unengaging, slow start to the morning that had you slipping further and further down your moulded plastic seat? Or, fast-forwarding to your adult self, a never-ending game of ‘can I take the register before he/she stops droning’? Sadly, these assemblies (primary and secondary) are all too common in our schools today - but with a little bit of planning and a smidgen of inspiration, those assemblies can become a valuable, rewarding and meaningful for the whole school community. Sounds great, right?
1) Speak from the heart - Make a promise to yourself that you will only ever deliver an assembly on a topic that matters to you. Some schools will allow real freedom to choose - you’re on to a winner if they do! If not, a little bit of thought can bring the given topic around to your passion. E.g. You’re asked to speak about exam stress - why don’t you tell them about how your squash or knitting hobby helps you to de-stress? You’re asked to deliver on an inspirational person - why don’t you forego the usual choices and tell them about your parent, sibling, best friend whose approach to life is inspiring? Whatever you talk about, it is YOUR job to make it passionate.
2)Keep it snappy - Whilst there are ongoing debates about classroom practice, starters, plenaries, lectures, learning styles, we all need to accept that in a large, echoing hall with infinite distractions, pupils need short, sharp content to stop them from descending into either misery or mutiny. Useful bitesize chunks can include: a short, interactive game (more on these at number 3); a short illustrative video, song or drama; a repeated phrase or theme that runs throughout; a short reading or poem. You may need ten different elements in one assembly! The emphasis, you’ll have noticed, is that each section needs to be SHORT!
3)Get them involved - Getting them involved at the start is a great way to capture the attention of the room and serves the dual purpose of giving the pupils a visual element to remember long after the assembly is finished, which might just make your message stick. Some of the best we’ve seen (with due thanks and respect to colleagues and pupils over the years) include:
Get pupils to attempt to put toothpaste back in the tube, or reassemble a peeled banana.
You can’t take back your words.
JB - SRCC
Create two cardboard jigsaw puzzles - one fits perfectly and one doesn’t because all the pieces are same shape. Get two teams to assemble them with a timer running.
Only the jigsaw with different pieces fits together - just like a community!
7U - SRCC
Show a short video (adverts work really well for this) with little/no context. Then ask them a series of apparently innocuous quiz questions afterwards e.g. what colour was the logo, how many people with blonde hair were in the video?
Always be aware of what is going on around you - you could miss something important!
MCW - SWCHS
Would you like to see more real examples of successful assembly themes, activities and structures? Let us know!