Was That Fair?

6, 7, 8

The teacher poses several questions to spark conversation and critical thinking about the meaning of fairness. Students work together to create a definition of fairness.

PrintOne 20-minute lesson

The learner will:

  • respond in discussion to a scenario about a fairness issue.
  • give a personal non-verbal response to several questions.
  • discuss and come to consensus on a definition for fairness.
Home Connection 

Talk to friends and family about the meaning and examples of fairness.


  1. Anticipatory Set

    Give the following scenario: At a high school, a girl named Stephanie wants to take shop class because she would like to build things with wood and tools. The counselor smiled when Stephanie asked to sign up for shop and said, "You don't want to take that class; you'll be the only girl in the class. Let's get you into an art class." The school does not have a rule that prohibits girls from taking the class.

    Discuss the scenario: Was the counselor being fair? Why or why not? Why do you think the counselor discouraged Stephanie from taking the class?What do you think Stephanie should do? Why do you think this decision could be difficult for Stephanie? Can you think of a time when rules were fair but the practice wasn't fair? (Example: In 1870, the 15th Amendment granted men of color the right to vote, but many were still kept from voting.)

  2. Ask the students to respond to some questions about fairness by giving a thumbs-up if they answer "yes," thumbs-down if they answer "no," and palm flat for "I don't know." After each question, discuss student responses. (Note: some of these are fair, but will create discussion about variations of these that are not fair.) Questions:

    1. Is it fair to give one student a B and another student an A?
    2. Is it fair to ask one member of a family to do a chore and not another member of the family?
    3. Is it fair to let boys and not girls play basketball on a team?
    4. Is it fair to hire a man for a job that a woman also applied for?
    5. Is it fair to tell a black man he must give up his seat for a white woman on a crowded bus?
    6. Is it fair to tell a bus passenger to give up his seat for a person with a cane?
    7. Is it fair for a teacher to ignore a tardy when someone is late for class?
    8. Is it fair for an employer to pay a woman more than a man for the same job?
    9. Is it fair to force someone to work for no pay if they don't get caught?
    10. Is it possible for unequal treatment to be fair?
    11. Is it possible for equal treatment to be unfair?
  3. Have the students write down what it means to be fair and then share their ideas with the class. Discuss and develop a class definition of fairness. Save the definition for the next lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Give examples of needs not met by the government, business, or family sectors.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Discuss examples of groups denied their rights in history.