Fair vs Equal

GRADES 3-5

Learning Goal

Students will learn the difference between fairness and equality.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the lessons, students will be able to:

  • Differentiate between fairness and equality
  • Understand the impact of equality and fairness in their own classroom

Learning Summary

A common refrain in school classrooms is, “That’s not fair!” Whether over sharing materials, games at recess, or time spent with a teacher, students’ attachment to fairness can present a significant obstacle when classroom teachers are not equipped to coach students through the nuances of fairness and equality. This week’s lesson will help students understand that fair is not always equal.

The lesson starts with a mindful moment in which students learn a movement and breath technique to help calm down.. Each student then pretends to have their own injury (of varying severity) that you “treat” with a bandaid. This ah-ha moment activity leads to students understanding that fair is not always equal. The class then discusses the activity as well as times that fair does not mean equal. Students end by reflecting in their journals on how the activity made them feel and any takeaways from the lesson.

computer icon    Online Teaching Tips for Fair vs. Equal

Make sure terms are defined clearly and examples are provided using your own examples from your classroom and students. 

  • Equal means everyone gets the exact same. 
  • Fair means everyone gets what they need to be successful. 
  • This does not always mean it will be equal.

The Band Aid Treatment activity is a concrete example for students of fair versus equal. If possible, do the activity as is and “send out” Band Aids one by one to students virtually (through a chat or email feature).

The Band Aid Treatment activity does not work recorded but you can tell a funny story of helping a class in this way. Alternately, start with the video found under the lesson variations. Define the terms (fair and equal) from the lesson plan or slides. Then use the That’s Not Fair additional activity for students to consider different scenarios as being either fair or equal. Read each scenario then pause for a few seconds before revealing the answer.

CASEL Competencies

Social awareness: The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.

Classroom Teaching Example

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