asingleshard2.gifTeaching A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

Tree-ear, an orphan boy, and his elderly and lame companion, Crane-man, live under a bridge in the small potters’ village of Ch’ul’po. Though homeless and hungry, Crane-man has taught Tree-ear survival skills and values like courage, honesty, and hard work. When Tree-ear accidentally destroys a piece of pottery created by Min, the best potter in the village, he willingly pays his debt by working for the artist. Tree-ear’s greatest hope is to learn from Min and to someday create pottery with his own hands. Though Min ignores Tree-ear, the boy remains loyal and offers to deliver Min’s work to the royal court in Songdo. Along the way, Tree-ear is robbed and the pottery is shattered, but Tree-ear is so sure that Min’s work is worthy of a royal commission that he continues his journey and delivers but a single shard. (Note: this is not a text about Korean American experience, but a text written by a Korean American about Korea.)

Challenge 1: Connecting your students to Korean Culture
A Single Shard takes place in Korea and discusses customs and values with which your students may not be familiar. In order to fully appreciate this text, it will be important for your students to begin to understand Korean culture, especially in the time period that this book takes place, the Koryo era (A.D. 918-1392). Linda Sue Park offers an Author's Note (pp. 149-152) which discusses several events, locations, etc. in the book that are based upon historical fact. This Author's Note may be a helpful starting point for discussing Korean history and culture in the Koryo era.

Following are suggested activities for classroom implementation:

Challenge 2: Familiarizing your students with homelessness
Tree-Ear goes through on a daily basis due to his homeless existence with Crane-Man. The issue of homelessness is important to study as it affects many people today, and it is relevant to consider the special issues of being homeless in the Koryo era.

Following are suggested ways to consider homelessness:
  • Participate in an Academic Service Learning project that incorporates interacting with the local homeless population
  • Invite a guest speaker, possibly a representative from a social service agency that works with the homeless population
  • Supplement with additional literature, non-fiction, images and film about homelessness; See the Chapter "Teaching About Homelessness" in Allen Carey-Webb's Literature & Lives

Challenge 3: Connecting your students to the art of pottery
Park devotes a great deal of time writing about the complexity that is the art of pottery in the Koryo era. Many students may have never watched pottery being created, seen a kiln, or attempted to work on a wheel. Studying and experiencing the process of making ceramics will help your students to grasp the skill and devotion needed to be skillful. This can tie directly into discussion of the way of life in Korea during the Koryo era. Not only will students understand the skill needed to be a potter but also the differences between being a potter today as opposed to historically.

Following is a suggestion for classroom implementation:
  • Collaborate with the art teacher to get a wheel throwing demonstration and/or create an opportunity for your students to participate themselves
  • Invite a local artist to discuss pottery
  • Visit an art museum displaying pottery
  • View Korean pottery from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Study Korean pottery

Additional Materials
Random House Teacher's Guide offers a sample unit on A Single Shard with a pre-reading activity, thematic connections, connecting to the curriculum and vocabulary. North Korean News The Korean Government Homepage

by Michelle Ringle-Barrett