Is That Fair?

6, 7, 8

We define what fairness means and compare and contrast definitions. Participants build empathy as they discuss others' experiences with fairness.

PrintOne 20-minute lesson

The learner will:

  • compare and contrast several definitions of fairness.
  • discuss issues of fairness in different situations.

Printout of Handout: Fairness Definitions. Display these definitions around the room.


  1. Anticipatory Set

    Ask how participants feel about rewards such as candy, stickers, or privileges for good work or behavior. Discuss whether it was fair to give some students and not others a reward [something given in return for a desired behavior] for good work. How did they feel about not getting a privilege [a right granted as a benefit] when someone else got one (or if they got one and someone else didn't)? Discuss why it might not be fair to reward good behavior or good work in middle school with candy, privileges, or grades. Ask how fair treatment changes for different ages and in different settings. 

  2. Have participants reflect for a quiet minute on what fairness means to them. Share different definitions of fairness by posting them on the walls around the room. See handout Fairness Definitions. After reading over all the definitions, participants stand by the definition that makes most sense to them.

    Note: If someone is alone in a group, ask them to choose a second favorite definition. They may bring the first-choice definition along when moving to a different group. The two definitions may be combined.

  3. When they have chosen their favorite definitions, tell them to discuss in their groups why they chose the definition and why they like it better than the others. They may like others, but they should focus on the aspects of the chosen definition. They may think of real-life examples to illustrate their support. 

  4. After five minutes of small group discussion, the groups choose a representative who reads aloud the definition and tells the rest of the class why they like their definition.

  5. Debrief together on what they heard about fairness, reflecting on ideas from all of the definitions that resonated with them, or made the most sense to them.

  6. Ask the following discussion questions:

    • Did you find yourself agreeing with some people and disagreeing with others about fairness?
    • Why do you think different people have different ideas about fairness?
    • Is it possible to solve a conflict [a competitive action between two people of different viewpoints] in which everyone thinks the resolution [conflict is answered or solved] is fair?
    • When we talked about the definitions, did you recall times when you thought something wasn't fair?
    • How do you feel when something seems unfair to you?
    • How can you act on those feelings?

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
    2. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Recognize terms that describe the civil society sector.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.