Boris and the Giant Turnip

In short...

Themes: Co-operation; asking for help; 'one good turn deserves another'.

Summary: This assembly about the value of co-operation is based on a familiar Russian folk tale about a giant turnip and is suitable for an act of Collective Worship. The original story is from a collection by Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy, published between 1855 and 1863.

Resources: a PE hoop to place over two pupils of similar height and two 'treats' (sweets, etc).

The video

Boris, his family and the whole village are hungry because the harvest has been so wet. Boris fears that they will all starve, until his wife, Katya, shows him the giant turnip that's growing in their field.

The turnip is so large it could actually save the village from starvation. In fact, it's so enormous that Boris can't get it out of the ground and he's reluctant to ask for help. First Katya helps Boris...then Ivan, his grandson...then a goat...Zilya, the dog...and finally a mouse...

At last they manage to to pull the turnip up and the village is saved.

Duration: 5' 29"

End of speech: ' has to go hungry this winter - not even the mice'.

Video questions

  • Why is the harvest failing on Boris's farm? (There has been several weeks of rain and so the crops are ruined)
  • What happens when Boris tries to pull up the giant turnip? (He falls flat on his back - splat!)
  • What does Boris say when Katya offers to help him? (Boris says he doesn't need any help...and he calls his wife an 'old lady')
  • Can you name all the people and animals that help Boris? (Katya...then Ivan...a goat...Zilya, his dog...finally a mouse)
  • What does the mouse say? ('Together we are strong!')
  • Why does Boris say he has been 'a fool'? (Perhaps because he thought he could pull the turnip out himself...perhaps because he under-estimated the others and especially Katya...perhaps because he failed to ask for help when it was clearly needed...)

Key links

Assembly framework (pdf)
Image of Boris and family

Suggested framework

1. Entry music
'Dance of the Candy Canes' from The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky.

2. Introduction
The assembly starts with a practical demonstration of how working together can often benefit both parties and will require two children, a PE hoop and two rewards of some sort (chocolate / sweets / stickers). There is one reward for each child but they are placed far enough away from each other that neither can reach from where they stand inside their hoop. The choice of children is important, as you need them to be fairly equal in size and strength so that one doesn't pull the other over. You will need to put the hoop around the waists of the two children, so they are standing in the middle, facing away from each other.

Then tell them to try to get to 'their' treat - with you acting as referee to avoid any injuries. It's natural for them to work against each other - to begin with at least - with neither being able to get to the treat. Eventually, they may well work out that if they go together to one chair, then together to the other, they will achieve more than if they pull against one another. If this doesn't happen, you might need to suggest a way forward - eg 'What if you worked together?'

Follow up with: 'We are going to share a story together now. It's a very old story that many of you will have heard before. It comes from the country of Russia - a long way from here - but it's also a story that is told all over the world.'

3. The video
Play the video. The duration is 5' 29" and the final words are: '...I want to thank you all the best way I can - by sharing this turnip with all the people and animals in the village so that no-one has to go hungry this winter - not even the mice.'

4. After the video
Ask the children to sit quietly and think about what they've seen and heard - and which part of the story they think was the most important for them to remember.

5. Time to talk
Use the story questions to help children to talk about the story and consolidate their recall of the events.

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

7. Opportunity for reflection
We've been thinking today about the story of Boris and the Giant Turnip...
I wonder why people still tell this story even after all these years..?
I wonder what we can learn from this story...about asking for help when we need it...about working together..?
I wonder if you've got something big that you need help with..?
I wonder who you might ask..?
Mouse said 'Alone we are weak, but together we are strong!'
We all need each other, in our homes, in our families and especially here in our own school community.

8. Opportunity for prayer
I'm going to pray now: if you'd like to make the prayer your own, then join in with 'Amen' at the end.
Dear God.
It is good to be reminded what can change when we work together with others.
When we face a challenge, help us to know when to ask for help...and who to turn to.

Suggested songs

Together - Vocal

Together - Backing