Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Chinese Proverb on Honesty
Lesson 4
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Introduces the ideas of honesty and responsible personal conduct. Exposes students to pictures of ethnic diversity. Increases listening comprehension and the use of critical thinking skills.


One Thirty-Minute Class Period


The learner will:

  • sequence events and discuss the setting of the story.

  • view the artwork and describe how it may be different from what they are used to.

  • hear Chinese folktales and discuss their culture.

  • discuss the relationship between honesty and good personal conduct.

  • plant seeds and monitor their growth (Science Connection).

  • discuss the relationship between good personal conduct/honesty and a civil society.


  • Copy of the book The Empty Pot, by Demi (see Bibliographic References).

  • Marigold seeds

  • Small peat pots or paper cups

  • Potting soil


The Empty Pot by Demi is the story of an Emperor in China who needed to select a successor to his throne. Since he loved flowers, he decided to call the children in the kingdom together and give each a seed. After one year the children were to return with their plant and the new Emperor would be chosen. The child Ping tries many methods to grow his seed but nothing happens so his father tells him to take the empty pot since he had done his best. When the Emperor sees the empty pot he selects Ping as the successor since all of the seeds were boiled and none should have grown. Ping was the only child honest enough to return with an empty pot.

Instructional Procedure(s):

    Anticipatory Set:

    Ask children: Why is it important to be honest? Do you want friends to be honest with you? When does it take courage to be honest?

  • Hold up the cover of the book The Empty Pot, by Demi. Activate prior knowledge by asking children to describe what they see.

  • Read the book to the class. Discuss the artwork and the depiction of characters.

  • Discuss the concept of a folktale and some general cultural aspects of China.

  • After re-reading have students sequence events and discuss the setting of the story.

  • Have students discuss honesty and why it may help build good personal conduct.

  • Science connection: Students will plant flower seeds inside the school. Discuss what is needed for a seed to grow, where will we put the containers and estimate how long they think it will take to germinate (explain the word germinate).

    • Chart the day that the seeds start to grow.

    • Measure the new plants and chart the size.

    • Transplant outside on school grounds.



Observe how well students note details, sequence events, and discuss the setting. Observe how students demonstrate good personal conduct, especially related to honesty over time. Monitor students planting and care for marigolds as students chart the progress of their plant.

Bibliographical References:

  • Demi. The Empty Pot. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1990.
    ISBN: 0805012176.

Lesson Developed By:

Pamela McIntosh
Detroit Public Schools
Woodward Elementary School
Detroit, MI 48208


Philanthropy Framework:


Viveca, Teacher Albion, MI10/13/2007 7:04:31 PM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) the concept of honesty was easily understood using the story The Empty Pot

Laura, Teacher Albion, MI10/13/2007 7:05:52 PM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) learning that being honest gets you the reward. My kids always want to be first at everything and this helped them understand that diong their best is all they need to do.

Amy, Teacher Albion, MI10/13/2007 7:10:35 PM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) teaching honesty. Good things come from being honest.

Angela, Teacher Omaha, NE1/11/2009 1:46:47 PM

I used this lesson for my Girl Scout troop, as well as at school, and I think the visual representation of honesty is fantastic. All of the children had a very real understanding of why honesty is an important part of character.

Puja, Teacher Evanston, IL3/31/2009 8:46:51 PM

This was a cool lesson plan.

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