What is Fair?  Rights and Justice for a Kindergarten Classroom

Lesson 1: What Does Fair Mean to Us? 

Teacher: Jackie Beck

Subject Area: Social Studies

Grade Level: Kindergarten

Time Needed: 2-3 minutes per student prior to beginning the unit; 15 minutes for lesson activities

Topic: Defining “Fair”


MMSD Standards:

-Kindergarten Social Studies Standard: Behavioral Science Standard 3: Demonstrate confidence in expressing one’s own beliefs and feelings


NCSS Standards

-Individual development and identity


School of Ed Standards

-Standard 5: Explains and justifies educational choices

-Standard 8: Employs varied assessment standards



-SWBAT demonstrate their understanding of the word “fair” prior to topic-related instruction

-SWBAT come up with a class definition for the word fair

-SWBAT apply their definitions to a situation


-Pre-unit Assessment Sheet


-Poster board



Lesson Context

            This is the first lesson on a unit about the word fair and how it applies to rights and justice in a Kindergarten classroom and throughout history.  The beginning of the lesson is a pre-unit assessment in order to gain an understanding of the students’ prior knowledge of the word fair.


Lesson Opening

            The first part of the lesson takes place with individual students throughout the week prior to beginning the unit.  In order to gain an understanding of the students’ knowledge of the word fair, informal interviews will be conducted with each student.  These interviews will take place during free choice time, at the end of guided reading groups, and during the rest period after lunch.  Each interview will consist of the following questions:

·      What does it mean if someone says “that’s not fair?”

·      What does the word “fair” mean?

The main focus of these questions is to gather the students’ understandings of the word fair – the first question is used to contextualize the word so that students understanding which meaning of the word we are referring to.  These answers will be recorded onto the attached pre-unit assessment sheet.



            After completing everyone’s interviews, begin the unit by coming together on the carpet as a whole group.  Tell the students that we are going to begin a unit about the word fair.  Explain that throughout the previous week you were able to ask everyone what they thought the word fair meant.  Now we are going to share our ideas with each other and come up with a class definition for this word.

            Remind the students of the two questions that you asked each one of them (to re-contextualize the word in case students do not remember clearly).  Tell the students to turn to their elbow buddy (the person sitting close enough to them that their elbows may be touching) and tell them what some of your ideas about the word fair are.  Ask the students to spread out in their pairs along the carpet so they are not disrupting each other too much.  Allow the students to talk for 3-5 minutes. 

            Ask the students to come back together on the middle of the carpet so that everyone can see the poster board.  Write the word “fair” in the middle of the poster, draw a circle around it, and draw lines coming out from the circle to represent the definitions that students come up with.  Ask one person from each pair to raise their hand and share one idea that their group came up with (after every one has had a chance to share, ask if there are any groups that had more than one idea that has not already been covered).  Record the ideas that students have.  These might include everyone getting the same thing, everything being the same, not cheating, treating others how we want to be treated, etc. 

            While asking pairs to share out to the class, be sure that everyone has a chance to participate.  And if someone has the same idea as a different group, ask the students if how it was phrased from the previous group makes sense – make sure that each student feels their ideas are represented on the poster.

            After you are done gathering ideas, read through all of the ideas once more so that students can hear their definitions all together.



            The closing activity is going to lead into the next day’s lesson.  Give the students the following scenario:

“One student has a scratch on their hand and another student breaks their arm.  If the school nurse gives each student a band-aid, is that fair?”

Ask the students to use the definitions that they came up with earlier (make sure the poster board is still visible) and decide if they think this situation is fair or not.  Give 2 minutes of silent think time.  Then turn the poster board over and collect the students’ answers by having them raise their hands (see assessment section below).  Tell the students that we are going to be using this information tomorrow when we talk more about fairness.


Special Considerations

            Contextualizing the word fair during the interviews and before brainstorming a definition is especially important if there are any ESL students in the classroom.  It is beneficial for all students (who may think of fair skin or maybe a county fair), but using the word in a sentence will allow students to make connections to how the word might be used in this setting.


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