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Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Empty Pot

The Empty Pot
by Demi

Universal Themes:
Choices, Consequences, Honesty, Integrity, Virtue

Before Reading Questions
  • Who has ever heard the expression that “honesty is the best policy”? What does that mean?
  • How many of you have chores that you’re expected to do at home? How many of you complete those chores on your own, without nagging from your parents?
  • Today’s tale is from China. Who can locate China on our map? What do you know about China?

The ancient Chinese emperor has decided that it is time for him to choose a successor to the throne. The flower-loving ruler decides that this shall be accomplished through a contest. Each child will be given a seed and told to do their best.

Ping, a young boy who also loves to grow lovely things, has great hope that he will be successful. Imagine his dismay, then, when he discovers that, despite the success of his friends, his own seed yields not even a single leaf.

Disappointed and ashamed, he approaches his father and asks for advice. His father tells him that he has done the best that he can, and that he has nothing to be ashamed of.

As the emperor examines the beautiful flowers brought before him on the final day, his face expresses nothing but disapproval. Finally, approaching Ping, he asks why the pot is empty. Ping explains that he did his best, but to no avail. The emperor then reveals that the seeds were cooked, and therefore could not grow. The contest was to find not the greatest gardener in the land, but the leader with the greatest integrity.

After Reading Questions
  • Did the emperor ask each child to grow a beautiful flower? (He actually asked each child to do his/her best).
  • What do you think the word integrity means? (Note: Integrity is often defined as “Doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” How is that definition exemplified in this story?)
  • What other stories have we read that show a character acting with integrity?
  • What advice did Ping’s Father give him? Has anyone ever given you advice like that?
  • Can you think of a time when it would be hard to tell the truth? Why is it still a good idea to tell the truth in these situations?
Extension Ideas: Math
  • Tangrams are Chinese puzzle pieces used to create both simple and complex pictures. Grandfather Tang’s Story by Ann Tombert is an excellent picture book which tells a simple story in both tangrams and conventional watercolor illustrations. (Also check out Tangram Magicianby Ernst). After sharing this story together, allow children to create pictures using paper tangram pieces. You may also wish to let them explore online tangrams.
Extension Ideas: Language Arts
  • Create a class chart titled “Integrity is…” and allow each student to complete the sentence with a concrete example of integrity in action.
  • Older students can make individual posters with that same theme, or write stories or poems which illustrate integrity at work.
  • Have students research words that come from the same base word as integrity (integer, integral, integrate). How are all of these words related?
Extension Ideas: Science
  • Encourage students to collect seeds from various foods at home and then plant them in class.
  • As a class, remove the seeds a bell pepper. Cook half of them and then plant the cooked seeds in one container, and the uncooked seeds in another. Is it true that cooked seeds won’t grow? Older students can research to learn about some special seeds which actually require fire in order to grow.
Extension Ideas: Social Studies
  • China has given the world an immense number of innovations including paper, noodles, and gunpowder. Have students research these and other Chinese firsts.
  • Why was the Great Wall of China built? Was it effective? What lessons did the Chinese learn from this wall?
  • Who are some famous Chinese Americans? How can we learn about others?