What makes me, me?

In short...

Themes: Identity; life experiences; accepting change; making choices.

Summary: This assembly explores an intriguing philosophical question and is suitable for any time of year. However, its themes of change and transition make it particularly suitable for the summer term before children move into the next year group or, in the case of Year 6, before they move to new schools.

Resources: the framework to download / print (pdf); an image called 'What makes me, me?' and an image called 'How do we change?'

The video

The philosophical question explored in the story was posed by the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Dave sails in his wooden ship, the ‘Theseus’. The ship needs numerous repairs at George’s Shipyard where George replaces the old wooden pieces with metal ones, until by the end of the voyage the 'Theseus' is entirely made of metal.

Dave’s wife struggles to accept that the metal ship is still Dave’s ship and things become even more complicated when George arrives in a wooden ship, also called ‘Theseus!’ So which of the two ships is the 'Theseus' - one of them, both of them...or none of them?

Duration: 4' 22"

End of speech: 'And if I am, what makes me, me?'

Video questions

  • What is the name of Dave's ship? (The Theseus)
  • Where does Dave get his ship repaired? (George's Shipyard)
  • What does George replace the wooden pieces with? (Shiny metal ones)
  • Why does Dave's wife think he has a new ship? (Dave's ship is now entirely made of metal)
  • How has George been able to build his own ship? (He has put the wooden pieces from the Theseus together to create...the Theseus!)

Key links

Assembly framework (pdf)
Image: 'What makes me, me?'
Image: 'How do we change?'

Suggested framework

1. Entry
As the children enter play your chosen song to sow seeds in the children’s minds - eg ‘Beautiful’ (Christina Aguilera) or ‘Go the distance’ (Hercules) . Display the question image ‘What makes me, me?’

2. Introduction
Begin with the question ‘What makes me, me?’ and ask pupils for their thoughts. Ask what the word 'identity' means. You could choose some older pupils to record answers to these questions to reflect upon after watching the video. Explain that the video is about a man called Dave who sets off on a voyage in a wooden ship called the Theseus and that the issue of identity becomes very important to him.

3. The video
Play the video. The duration is 4' 22". Questions are posed during the video at the following times:
2' 10" - Is it the same ship? And if it isn’t, at what point did it become a different ship?
3' 18" - Does this mean there are two ships called the Theseus...or just one? Which ship is the Theseus?
4' 13" - Am I the same person I was when I was born? And if I am, what makes me, me?
You could choose to pause the video at these times for a short discussion, or alternatively, watch the video through once and then stop at the questions the second time through, or pose the questions after the first viewing.

4. After the video
You may choose to discuss the questions posed in the video now if they weren't discussed during the video. You can also display the image called 'How do we change?' taken from the video to aid the discussion around 'change'.

5. Time to talk
Move the discussion on from the Theseus to a more general consideration of identity and change. You could ask some of the following:
1. Are we responsible for the changes in our personality?
2. Can we control the changes in ourselves? If not, what does control them?
3. What does ‘turn over a new leaf’ really mean?
4. Does where we are born influence who we end up becoming?
5. How well do you know yourself?

Some pupils struggle with identity and who they are so you will need to be sensitive when discussing some of the above.

6. Opportunity to sing
An opportunity to sing your chosen song. Suggestions from BBC collections below.

7. Opportunity to reflect
Over our lives, we have changed and will continue to change as we grow older. Some of these changes are obvious one...growing taller...being able to talk...changing our favourite flavour of ice-cream... However, some of these changes are less obvious - what we believe in...what our hopes and dreams are...or what we value most in life. Think about who you will become as you grow and develop... Will you be the same you...or different..? What makes you, you?

8. Opportunity for prayer
Use your standard form of address (Dear God, etc) and:
We thank you for making us all unique. We are all different and special.
Sometimes the people in our world struggle to accept these differences between each other.
Help me to accept and embrace the differences within myself as I grow older and change both physically and spiritually.

Suggested songs

Song: 'We will grow' (All about our school, no 10)