What Is a Promise?

6, 7, 8

Students define honesty as fairness and straightforward conduct. They look for examples in a story and debate the merits and mistakes of the main character.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne 20-minute lesson

The learner will:

  • define honesty before and after discussion and story.
  • read the story "Ostrich Egg Wife."
  • identify examples of honesty/dishonesty in the story.
Home Connection 

At home tonight, students start a discussion by asking their families, "Why is it important to you that people are honest?"


Grimes, Nikki. Jazmin’s Notebook. New York: Puffin Books, 1998. ISBN-13: 978-0141307022


  1. Anticipatory Set

    Write the following statement on the board: "I never tell the truth." Ask the students if the statement is true or false. Encourage the students to explain their answers (e.g., If the statement was true, then it wouldn't be true anymore).

  2. Ask, "What does it mean to be honest?" Listen to student definitions of honesty and write the key words on the board from their explanations. Explain that although honesty is usually associated with telling the truth, honesty has a wider definition that they will explore together.

  3. Before reading the short African fable called "The Ostrich Egg Wife," tell the students you want them to listen for the examples of honesty or dishonesty in the story.

  4. Read aloud (orgive out copies for students to read) the Ostrich Egg Wife. After reading, ask the students to point out how Setelane was not honest. (He broke a promise.) Ask what happened to him when he broke a promise. (He lost everything.) Ask, "What was worse, the words he said to his wife or breaking a promise? Why?" This may create some debate. If the students don't raise the issue themselves, ask them whether Setelane was honest when he said his wife was the daughter of an ostrich egg. If they disagree about this, tell them, "This may be a good time to look up the definition of honesty in the dictionary."

  5. Ask students to look up the definition of honesty in the dictionary. Have students read aloud the definitions and synonyms. Or share Webster's dictionary definition of honesty, which is "fairness and straightforwardness in conduct."

  6. Discuss the ways Setelane did not show himself to be straightforward, or a man of honor.

Cross Curriculum 

This character education mini-lesson is not intended to be a service learning lesson or to meet the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice. The character education units will be most effective when taught in conjunction with a student-designed service project that provides a real world setting in which students can develop and practice good character and leadership skills. For ideas and suggestions for organizing service events go to generationon.org.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the importance of hearing all voices in a community and respecting their right to be heard.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Give an example of how philanthropy can transcend cultures.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify and give examples of stewardship in cultural traditions around the world.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.
      3. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.