SUMMARY: Forced to flee her beloved Vietnam to escape a devastating civil war, a woman takes only her children and a single lotus seed to remember the emperor by. Years later, when her grandson takes the seed, she thinks all is lost until the beautiful lotus blossom reminds her of home and gives her grandchildren something to remember her by. This story will help readers appreciate those who must start anew without forgetting their past.
* Discuss how flowers and other plants grow from seeds. Examine various types
and sizes of seeds and ask the children to guess what happens to ones that are not
planted. Do they believe a plant could grow from a ten- or twenty-year old seed?
Explain that lotus seeds found in Egyptian tombs thousands of years old have grown
*Share the title of the book and ask if anyone has seen a lotus plant or blossom. Turn to the illustration facing the title page and show everyone what a lotus looks like. Show them what a lotus pod filled with seeds looks like and how it rattles.
*Discuss the concept of immigration. Possible questions to ask: Why do people come to this country from other places? [economic, political, natural disasters, war]. Do you know anyone who has recently immigrated to the United States? How did they get here?
*Pose a hypothetical situation to the children: Suppose that a fire or flood was rapidly approaching and that each child could only take one item from his/her home. Discuss why items were chosen. Did sentimental attachment or cost of item influence selection? Then ask the children to predict which items their grandparents might choose to save. Again, explore what factors would influence their choices. Explain what a family heirloom is.
*Share the cover of the book and ask the children to predict what country is depicted in the illustration.
*Explain that this story begins in Vietnam and locate the country on a world map or globe. Ask the children if they know anything about Vietnam or its recent history. Discover if the children have relatives who came from Vietnam or who served in the US military there
*Ask the children to discuss a time in their lives when they did something they believed was harmless, but it inadvertently upset another family member or friend. Point out this is what happens in the story they are about to read.
*Pause when you reach the page showing the people boarding the boat and ask the children to predict where they think the people will go. Then read the next page and ask the children where the family is now. Did anyone predict the United States? Explain that most Vietnamese refugees came to the USA, but many also went to other nations across the world such as France, Germany, England, or Holland.
*Discuss why Ba took the lotus seed when she fled but left behind her valuable
*Discuss the boy's feelings when he took the seed. Possible questions to ask: How do you think he felt when his grandmother became so upset? How might he have felt when the lotus bloomed? What do you think he will do with his lotus seed?
*Discuss the fact that the United States is called "a nation of immigrants" or "the melting pot." Take a group survey of the children's ancestors' countries of origin and approximately how long their families have lived in the United States.
Geography and Climate
*On a world map, locate Vietnam. Compare that country's distance from the equator to states such as Florida and Texas. *Discuss the kinds of weather of counties located near the Equator.
*Ask children why they think Vietnamese wear pointed hats? Discuss monsoon rains and their importance to Asian countries.
*On a world map, place a pin or sticker on each child's family's country of origin using information from the group survey taken earlier.
*Compare the roles of emperors, presidents and kings.
*Compare dictatorship to democracy; communism to capitalism.
*Using map and ruler, calculate the distance from Vietnam to your school.
*Count the number of seeds in a lotus pod.
*Calculate the distance from your town to the Equator; calculate the distance of the tip of Vietnam to the Equator.
*Have children draw a scene from the book or a scene from everyday life in Vietnam.
*Have children draw a lotus bloom or bring any cut flower to the classroom and have them draw it.
*Make lotus flowers out of pink tissues and glue onto blue construction paper, with green leaves
Botany and Agriculture
*Plant a lotus seed (or other seeds) as a class project and watch them grow.
*All parts of lotus are used: seeds used in desserts; stems used in salads; leaves used for flavoring; roots eaten
*Bamboo: name some items made from bamboo. Buildings, bridges, boats, baskets, chop sticks. Have a chopstick contest.
*Rice: rice, rice noodles, rice paper. Learn how to make an "egg roll" with rice paper
*Coconuts: many uses of edible parts, plus leaves and fibers. Shells serve as bowls.
*Bananas: leaves used to wrap food before cooking. Compare to S. American tamales.
*Compare traditional Vietnamese dress to that of other Asian countries. Note similarities and differences.
*Transportation: compare Vietnamese cyclos to Chinese rickshaws. How are they different? How are they alike?
*Compare Tet (New Year's) to American New Year
*Compare the Moon Festival (Fall Festival) to Halloween
*Show Vietnamese Zodiac. How is it different from Greek Zodiac?
*Talk about dragons -- in Asia considered good and bring luck. Compare to European dragons.
*Family altars -- place where food is offered and incense burned to honor ancestors
*Teach children to use chop sticks. Have a chop stick contest, using peanuts.
*Read a Vietnamese folktale
*Read the Author's Note at the end of the book and discuss any questions the children may have about Vietnamese history and the role that the United States has played in it. Have the children research various aspects of the country and its history more fully and present their findings to the group.
*Discuss why a trade embargo was placed on Vietnam by the United States and how it affected both countries?
*The embargo was removed in 1994: how did that affect Vietnam? the United States?
*Discuss why the United States has become the new home for so many Vietnamese?
*Discuss other Asians who immigrated to the US and reasons why, including Native Americas.
*Talk about "heirlooms" handed down in the children's families.
*Talk about any stories handed down in the children's families.
*If you have a first- or second-generation immigrant in your community from any country, have them speak to the group about their experiences.
*Examine poem on back cover. Have children comment on how Vietnamese written words look compared to English.
*Explain that diacritical marks indicate a tone change, which in turn changes the meaning of the word. Use the word "well" to show how a word's meaning changes by using a different tone. Ask children to say "well" in as many different ways as possible.
*Show example of other Asian languages -- some are written using characters, rather than letters from an alphabet.
*Discuss what problems Ba faced due to not knowing the language of her new country.
*Ask if anyone knows of someone who does not speak English and the problems that person faces.
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