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The following stories are great to use anytime during a psychology class. These stories go nicely with a sensation and perception unit. The students can read the stories individually or a teacher can read the stories aloud. After reading each story, read the writing prompts out loud. Allow the students 3 -5 minutes to answer the questions.

The Wealthy Man: Author Unknown

I heard a story about a father, a very wealthy man, who decided to send his son off to understand and appreciate how fortunate he was. So he decided to send him to what the father considered to be a poor family out in the countryside. When the son returned three days later, the father said, “Well son, did you see how poor people can live?” “Yes father, I did,” said the son. “Tell me what you saw?” said the father. “Well, I saw that we have expensive lamps imported from Europe, and they have stars. I saw that we have one dog, and they have four dogs. I saw that we have a swimming pool in our garden, and they have a creek that never ends. Thank you, father for showing me how poor we are.”

  1. Do you believe money can buy happiness?
  2. Community Service: Explain a time when you went on a mission or help others less fortunate. Explain how this experience may have changed your perception. What did you learn about yourself and others?

The Starfish

An old man was walking along the beach, when he came upon a part of the sand         where thousands of starfish had washed ashore. A little further down the beach he saw a young woman, who was picking up the starfish one at a time and tossing them back into the ocean. “Oh you silly girl,” he exclaimed. “You can’t possibly save all of these starfish. There’s too many.” The woman smiled and said, “I know. But I can save this one, ” and she tossed another into the ocean, “and this one”, she tossed another one into the ocean, “and this one…” (This story was adapted from a poem written by Randy Poole called The Difference He Made )  

  1. Describe a time when you feel you made a difference in a person’s life.
  2. Describe a person who has made a difference in your life.


NAIL IN THE FENCE (taken from The Master Teacher newsletter)

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.
A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one. Friends are very rare jewels, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share words of praise, and they always want to open their hearts to us.”

  1. Comment on the following phrase: “A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.”
  2. Describe a verbal wound that you received or inflicted. (You will not have to share this with the class.)

The Mountain Story

(Author Unknown)

A son and his father were walking on the mountains.
Suddenly, his son falls, hurts himself and screams: “AAAhhhhhhhhhhh!!!”
To his surprise, he hears the voice repeating, somewhere in the mountain:
Curious, he yells: “Who are you?”
He receives the answer: “Who are you?”
Angered at the response, he screams: “Coward!”
He receives the answer: “Coward!”
He looks to his father and asks: “What’s going on?”
The father smiles and says: “My son, pay attention.”
And then he screams to the mountain: “I admire you!”
The voice answers: “I admire you!”
Again the man screams: “You are a champion!”
The voice answers: “You are a champion!”
The boy is surprised, but does not understand.
Then the father explains: “People call this ECHO, but really this is LIFE.
It gives you back everything you say or do.
Our life is simply a reflection of our actions.
If you want more love in the world, create more love in your heart.
If you want more competence in your team, improve your competence.
This relationship applies to everything, in all aspects of life;
Life will give you back everything you have given to it.”

  1. How we look at life is largely determines our attitudes and actions. We spend a great deal of time in our lives communicating with ourselves in our head. Explain the conversations you have in your head. Are they positive / negative? Could you try to change your thoughts to create better results?
  2. “This relationship applies to everything, in all aspects of life; Life will give you back everything you have given to it.” Explain a time when you have given “everything” to a cause, relationship, extracurricular activity.

Build Quality Into Your Life

(Author Unknown)

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house- building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.
The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.

When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter.  “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.”
What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.
So it is with us. We build our lives in a distracted way, reacting rather than acting, willing to put up with less than the best. At important points we do not give the job our best effort.
Then with a shock we look at the situation we have created.
Think of yourself as the carpenter. Think of your life as the house. Each day you hammer a nail, place a board or erect a wall, build wisely.  It is the only life you will ever build.  Even if you live it for only one day more, that day deserves to be lived graciously and with dignity.
The plaque on the wall says, “Life is a do-it-yourself project, do it to the best of your ability.”

  1. Describe a time when you gave everything you had to a project. Describe what it was and what you received in return.

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