A Single Shard (Hardcover) by Linda Sue Park. Clarion, 2001. ISBN: 978-0395978276. pp: 160. Ages: 10-14, gr: 4-8
Paperback (January 5, 2006) Oxford University Press ISBN: 978-0192719584. pp. 176



Tree-Ear is a 12-year-old orphan living in 12th-century Korea under the care of the crippled, but wise, Crane-man. Tree-Ear has dreams of being a potter in his village which is known for its fine celadon ceramics, but it seems impossible for one who has no home and scavenges for food. He values his opportunity to work for the master potter Min, first to work off a debt for damaging a pot, and then as a helper paid in food and the caring concern of Min’s wife. Although he is an outstanding potter, Min is such a perfectionist that he produces less. All the potters are striving to do their best work hoping to earn a royal commission. Tree-Ear discovers that a rival potter has developed a new technique and wrestles with the ethics of telling Min. Eventually the technique is revealed without his interference. Min incorporates the new technique to advantage and entrusts two sample pieces for Tree-Ear to take to show the royal emissary. Disaster awaits on the perilous journey but Tree-Ear persists with only a single shard to show at journeys end.

One might wonder if students are deterred by the unfamiliar time and place, but student readers give the book positive reviews.


  1. During reading — Ask children to write down words in the story that are unfamiliar to them. After reading a section, have them ask at least two other students what the word means. If they still have not figured out the definition then have the class choose one or two words, and together complete a Concept of Definition Map. Example

  2. Try Mrs. Zajko’s online quiz after reading chapters 1 & 2.
    Then after finishing the book try these online quizzes. Quiz 1 Quiz 2

  3. Write a bio-poem about one of the main male characters in the story (Min, Crane Man or Tree Ear). A bio-poem should use words that are relevant to the story and describe the characters. It has eleven lines that should follow this format:
    Line 1: the name of the character
    Line 2: four traits that describe the character
    Line 3: friend of...
    Line 4: lover of... (three items)
    Line 5: who feels... (three items)
    Line 6: who needs... (three items)
    Line 7: who gives... (three items)
    Line 8: who fears... (three items)
    Line 9: who would like to see... (three items)
    Line 10: resident of...
    Line 11: a possible nickname

  4. Make a timeline of Korean history using facts from the book and from PBS. Point out ways the times affected the characters in the story.

  5. Make a virtual pot (experiment, it can be a bit tricky).
    Then see how real potters do it in the Pottery Tutorial: Throwing on the Wheel (illustrated)

  6. Create your own kimchi pot.
    Note to teacher: Older students decorate fired pots or complete the entire process themselves if resources are available.
    Younger students print and color the design.

  7. Read reviews of the book written by students. Pick one of the reviews and write a response to the reviewer, for example: what you like about the review, what you agree with, what you disagree with.

  8. Read about a modern day Korean master potter. Compare and contrast Kim Jeong-ok with Min.

  9. Go through The Metropolitan Museum of Art interactive "tour" of celadon pottery.

  10. Find out more about the culture of bowing including types of bows, cultures that bow and what bowing means in different cultures. Demonstrate the different kinds of bows.

  11. Use your own copy of a map of Korea to highlight cities that are written about in the story and to show the route Tree Ear walked. (pic format) (gif or eps formats)

  12. Scavenger hunt. Use magazines, newspapers or the internet to find the following:

    • Flag of Korea
    • Map of Korea
    • Articles about cities in Korea
    • Advertisements for any type of pottery
    • The name or picture of a Korea leader (past or present)
    • Article about Korean pottery
  13. Work with a small group to plan a "trip" to Korea. Include what city you will stay in and what you will do while you are there. Popular landmarks and monuments should be included.

  14. Read the interview with Linda Sue Park in Time for Kids. This interview was done in 2002. There would be some differences in her answers if she were asked these questions today. Explore the Linda Sue Park website and revise the interview to what she might say in answering these questions if the were asked today.

  15. Research Confucius and find five of his proverbs. Share them as a class and interpret them.

About the Author


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More for the teacher

Links to other online guides for A Single Shard.


A Single Shard. Accelerated Reader: Quiz #49768 EN; Book Level 6.6; Points= 6.0
Book Adventure (Sylvan): Quiz Level 5
Reading Counts: Reading Level 6.8; Points= 10.0
Lexile Level 920
Guided Reading Level U
DRA 44
word count= 35,059
Flesch/Kincaid 6.3

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