Is the Empty Pot Bad? ESL Critical Listening Activity

50-minute English Lesson

In this ESL critical listening activity, a child learns an important lesson from a king, a father, and an empty pot.

A pot without soil

Read the story

The Empty Pot

Long ago, there was an old king. He didn’t have a son or daughter. There was nobody to take his place after he died.

So, he made a plan to find a young person to be the future king or queen.

One day in April, he invited children from the village to his garden. He gave each child one seed. He told them to grow a flower. The person with the best flower would be the future leader.

One boy was happy. Ping loved to grow things. He thought he could grow the best flower.

He went home and planted the seed. Every week, he gave it the right amount of water and sunshine.

For weeks, nothing happened.

He showed his father the empty pot. Ping said he didn’t want to meet the king. His father said, “No my son, go to the king and tell him you worked hard.”

The next day, the king’s garden was filled with kids. Ping looked around. Everyone had a beautiful flower, except him.

The king studied the plants, but didn’t smile. Then he saw Ping. He walked over and asked him, “Why is there nothing inside your pot?”

Ping said, “The seed wouldn’t grow.”

The king smiled. He raised his arm and spoke with a kind voice, “Thank you all, but I do not know how you were able to grow these things. I gave you a bad seed. It wasn’t possible to grow anything. This boy has an empty pot. He is honest. He will be the next king.”

Listen without reading

ESL critical listening activity

Audio

Here is the listening file for this lesson.

Listening level: 2
Audio file: 1:47 min
Story length: 257 words
ESL Critical Listening Activity 50-,imute lesson
A pot with a growing plant

Quiz: Empty Pot

Did you understand the story?

Let's check with a True-False quiz.

ESL listening activity: gap fill

Listen to the ESL listening story again and fill in the blanks.

Long ago, there was an old king. He didn’t have a son or ________ . There was nobody to take his place after he died.

So, he made a plan to find a young person to be the ________ king or queen.

One day in April, he ________ children from the village to his garden. He gave each child one seed. He told them to ________ a flower. The person with the best flower would be the future leader.

One boy was happy. Ping loved _____ ________ things. He thought he could grow the best flower.

He went home and ________ the seed. Every week, he gave it the right amount of water and ________ .

For weeks, nothing ________ .

He showed his father the empty pot. Ping said he didn’t want ________ the king. His father said, “No my son, go to the king and tell him ________ ________ you .”

The next day, the king’s ________ was filled with kids. Ping looked around. Everyone had a ________ flower, except him.

The king studied the plants but didn’t ________ . Then he saw Ping. He walked over and asked him, “Why is there ________ inside your pot?”

Ping said, “The seed ________ grow.”

The king smiled. He raised his arm and spoke with a kind ________ , “Thank you all, but I do not know how you were able to grow these things. I gave you a ________ seed. It wasn’t possible to grow anything. This boy has an empty pot. He is ________ . He will be the next king.”

ESL discussion questions

Talk about the story.

  1. What was the king’s plan?
  2. What advice did Ping’s father give?
  3. Do you think the father gave good advice?
  4. Why did the king not smile when he saw children with so many flowers?
  5. Did the king choose the best person?
  6. Does this story have a good message for kids?

Synonym match

Match the word or phrase on the left with the correct synonym.

1. make a plan
2. village
3. the right amount
4. honest
5. for weeks
a. small town
b. truthful
c. a long time
d. prepare
e. sufficient

ESL listening activity: anagrams

Move the letters. Make a word from the ESL listening story.

  1. DNOOBY
  2. VITNIED
  3. ANOUMT
  4. EIDDSUT
  5. OCEVI
  6. ESED

Writing practice

Write the five sentences. Put the words in the correct order.

  1. was / place / died / there / take / to / after / nobody / his / he
  2. thought / best / grow / flower / he / he / could / the
  3. amount / the / sunshine / gave / of / he / it / every / week / and / right / water
  4. showed / pot / father / the / empty / his / he
  5. with / future / be / the / the / leader / the / best / flower / person / would

Another ESL listening story

Try this free ESL listening activity called The Horse. It’s about a wise father and a horse.

Reading and note taking

Did you like this ESL listening activity based on an old Chinese folktale? Click here to read a story about four dragons.

  1. Scan the story.
  2. Take notes.
  3. Make a list of at least six facts.

Get the worksheet

Want to print out these ESL listening activities? Click to download PDF.

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