Writing Prompts on Confucius Proverbs

These Confucius proverbs writing prompts are a sure way to get your high school, middle school, and older elementary school students thinking critically.  Confucius (551-479 BCE) was a Chinese philosopher who is considered to be one of the most influential individuals in history. His philosophical teachings emphasized personal and governmental morality, kindness and justice. His teachings are called Confucianism and they are the basis of East Asian culture and society.

Younger grades:

Writing Prompt 1:  It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. –
Like the fable about the tortoise and the hare, it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get to the finish line, as long as you don’t stop the way the hare did. Can you think of a situation where it took you a long time to complete something, but you didn’t stop until you finished?   

→ Writing Prompt 2:  I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. –
Give an example of what Confucius meant when he said this.

→ Writing Prompt 3: Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
That’s a pretty fancy way of saying “never give up.” Can you think of a time that you kept failing at something, but you kept trying and trying until you succeeded? Write about it.

→ Writing Prompt 4: Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. –
Many people think puppies and kittens are beautiful. On the other hand, some other people see the beauty in lizards and sharks. Can you think of something that you think is beautiful that perhaps other people do not?

→ Writing Prompt 5: The journey with a 1000 miles begins with one step. –
Some people believe that the journey Confucius spoke of was a physical journey, like traveling from New York to Florida. But it’s more likely that he was referring to our journey in life, like learning a new language or learning how to paint. Pick something you would like to learn and explain what first step you would need to get started.

→ Writing Prompt 6: The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.
People don’t really move mountains! However, sometimes they have a big project to complete that feels as difficult as moving a mountain. For example, pretend you had to clean up a very messy bedroom which is full of books, dirty clothes, toys, food wrappers and just plain old trash! How would you start to “move that mountain’? Which “small stones” would you first remove to make cleaning the room easier?

Older grades:

Writing Prompt 7:  Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. –
Write a short essay on ways that human beings make life complicated. Why do you think we do that?

Writing Prompt 8: The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort. –
Do you think Confucius meant that we should not be comfortable in life? Or is his quote deeper than that? Explain what you think he meant.  

Writing Prompt 9: He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good. –
What do you think Confucius thought about braggarts when you read this quote? Do you think modesty is important or should you be allowed to boast about your accomplishments?

Confucius Quotes Writing Prompts
Confucius Proverbs Writing Prompts Continue

Writing Prompt 10:  To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it. –
Have you ever had to forgive someone for something that they’d done to hurt you? If you still feel pain from the betrayal, do you think that someday you will be able to forgive so that the wrong is nothing? If not, why not?

Writing Prompt 11:  The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life. –
Are you sometimes afraid to ask a question because you don’t want to appear to be foolish or ignorant? Explain what Confucius meant when he said that by NOT asking the question you can be a fool for life.

Writing Prompt 12: Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.
There are many, many examples of this. If you don’t study before a test, you’re more likely to fail. If you don’t have a speech written out, you may drone on and on. If you don’t practice at a sport and do the drills required, you’ll probably end up being a mediocre athlete. Can you think of a time when you did not prepare, when you should have? What were the end results?

Writing Prompt 13: Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves. –
Confucius was saying revenge hurts both parties. Do you think that is true? Why or why not?

Writing Prompt 14: The man who says he can, and the man who says he can not are both correct. –
Confucius believed in the power of positive thinking and in believing in yourself. Does a saying like this inspire you to never give up?

Writing Prompt 15:  Your life is what your thoughts make it. –Everyone has a loop of thoughts running in their heads, both good and bad. If you can learn to control your thoughts, you will be able to control some things about your life. Why do you think it’s so hard to get rid of negative thoughts?

Writing Prompt 16:  Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.- 
How can understanding the extent of your ignorance be the real knowledge?  Give an example.

Writing Prompt 17: We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one. –
How can you live your life so that you don’t waste time learning this truth?

Writing Prompt 18: If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room. –
Explain why you are in the wrong room, if you are the smartest person in it. Should you not aspire to be the smartest person in the room? Or does it mean you should always aspire to learn more?

Writing Prompt 19: A healthy man wants a thousand things, a sick man wants only one. –
Does this saying apply to any one you know?