Teaching the Theme of Honesty while Understanding Characterization


“The Empty Pot”

Stories to Grow by


Looking for a great text on teaching the Theme of Honesty? Would you also like an incredible Folktale to help teach the importance of Characterization, both literally and figuratively, exploring how decisions both affect us positively and negatively? At the same time, would you like to build student engagement, fluency and comprehension while exposing students to multi-cultural stories from all over the world with positive moral messages? Then we have the lesson plan for you! Utilize the below lesson plan with our Reader’s Theater Script, “The Empty Pot”. It would also work nicely with the Story version as well. A positive message while teaching an important literary skill: this is what you will find in all the Stories to Grow by Stories and Reader’s Theater Scripts. This week’s themed story is The Empty Pot from China:

The Empty Pot:

A group of boys who wish to be the next in line for Emperor are given "royal seeds" to grow in six months’ time; whomever flourishes the best plant will be crowned the successor. However, what the boys don't know, is that they've been tricked to test their character! The "royal seeds" have been baked and therefore won't grow a magnificent plant. Will any of the youth be honest despite looking foolish and show up empty-handed or will they give in to their desire to be Emperor, at the cost of being dishonest, and "grow" a plant with a seed other than the one they were given? A true testament to character when such a large prize is at stake. Find out here! Read the Script or the Story.

The content of this tale prompts skill-building for the Common Core Standards CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.2, 3.2, 3.3, 4.2, 5.2:

Unit Essential Question: How has Honesty played an important role in your relationships with others?

Objective: Students will recount folktales and determine the central message/moral while exploring the theme of Honesty through Characterization, reviewing how characters respond to the challenge.   

Anticipatory Set: They say Honesty is always the best policy. Is it? Why or why not?  (5mins)

Activities: Teacher will assign the 14 parts (could give students 2 parts if working in small groups) or divide class in half to create two reading groups, depending on class size. Students read the script aloud, creating a “Reader’s Theater Round” working on fluency and expression. There are five scenes so you may wish to divide the reading into two-three days. You may also use the story instead. Groups should stop at the end of each scene to discuss the setting, main characters and main events. Once finished the read aloud, have the students complete a Character Map of Shen (Jun if using the story) to analyze his specific character traits and how his actions effected the outcome of the story. We offer one on our Just for Teachers Page here: https://storiestogrowby.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/GRAPHIC%20ORGANIZERS/Character-map-1.pdf?x45582

Next, use our Character Decision Map to help students analyze Shen's (Jun if using the story) choices and what is shows about his character. This tool helps students look at the Pros/Cons of the choice presented to the main character and help them develop reasons why the character should or shouldn't proceed with a certain choice. 

Finally, have students individually or in groups or even whole class participate in a “What Would You Do?” Provide certain scenarios of Honesty/Character and have students respond either written or orally what they would do. Here is a great set of questions from Pearson Education. Use the ones appropriate for your grade level. http://i.infopls.com/fe/pc/0,,12211-741,00.pdf or make up your own!

Closing: Have students answer the following questions: What made Shen (Jun) special? What do we learn about his character from his actions?

Extension: Explain a time when you were in a similar situation: What did you do and how did your actions affect the outcome? Could you have done anything differently?