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In this lesson, third grade students learn about the Chinese philosopher Confucius and the legacy he still continues to have, more than 2,000 years later. Students will then create their own little book of "Confucianisms", selecting quotes of their own and illustrating what they mean to them in a kind of little "guide" book.

Confucius: The Golden Rule
Suzanne York

Grade level: 3-5
Time Needed: Several days to read text, 1-2 hours to complete “advice” books.

To introduce students to Confucius, an important Chinese philosopher, and “The Golden Rule” a kind of “manual” for living a moral, ethical life, for which he is credited.
To give students a chance to think about how these enduring ideas might apply to their own lives.

Materials needed:
The book: Confucius: The Golden Rule, by Russell Freedman
White construction paper (9” x 12”) cut in half and stapled/assembled into little books – 6-10 pages
pencils and colored pencils.

Background Information:
Confucius was a Chinese teacher, philosopher, politician, and writer that lived in China from about 551-479 BCE. The philosophy of Confucius emphasized social justice and personal morality and correctness. He has been credited for writing or editing many of the classic Chinese texts that became the foundation for what is known as the “Analects of Confucius” – though they were actually published long after his death.

Many of Confucius’s guiding “principles” had a basis in common Chinese tradition and belief: family loyalty, respect of elders by their children, ancestor worship, and the idea of family being a basis for government. The saying “Do not do unto others what you do not want done to yourself” is perhaps the most well-known of the “Anelects” (translation “discussion over Confucius’ words”) that became known, many centuries later (not until 1670, in fact), as “The Golden Rule”. Confucianism continues to have a tremendous influence on Chinese and East Asian thought and values today.

Ask students what they think “The Golden Rule” is. Since the idea of just reciprocity exists in almost all prominent religions, it is likely that students will have some contextual understanding of the idea. Record their answers.

Tell them that the idea of “The Golden Rule” most likely originated more than 2,500 years ago, BCE in China from a philosopher named Confucius.

Draw a timeline on the board to give students an understanding of the terms, BCE and CE.

Tell students that they will learn about this man, Confucius, his travels and teachings, and think about why his ideas have such an enduring legacy today, thousands of years later.

Tell students that they will select 5-10 of the “annelects” or ideas of Confucius, and illustrate them in a little “guide book” or “advice book” for how to live a healthy, “righteous” life.

The book, Confucius: The Golden Rule, by Russel Freedman is text-heavy. The teacher can choose to read it aloud to students over a course of several days, or, if appropriate, make copies and assign it as independent reading or in Literature Circles.

Hand out the “Confucianisms” – or add to the list from many available sources. Have students select 5 or more of them, transcribe them on a page of their booklet, and illustrate each one of them.

Confucius Says:

Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.

Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.

Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.

He who will not economize will have to agonize.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.

Respect yourself and others will respect you.

Study the past if you would define the future.

The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his States and all their clans are preserved.

To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage.

What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.

When anger rises, think of the consequences.

When we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.

Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.

By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.

Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue.

Have no friends not equal to yourself.