2007-2008

Fairness Up Front

rottenandrascalFor something to be fair, the criteria needs to be set ahead of time and shared up front. For example, if a teacher does not specify that she wants homework done in pencil, then it would be unfair to take points off of the paper of the child who completed the work in pen. That’s why we set the rules ahead of time, before we play a game.

Try this simple experiment: Say to a group of children that we’re going to play a game of Knock It Off and then simply say, “ready, set, go.” No explanation, no guidelines, no rules. They’ve never heard of that game before and have no idea what to do. What will happen? They may sit there with blank looks and lots of questions. But imagine if they were to attempt to play the game – without guideliness, things are confusing, chaotic, and out of control. This would neither be safe nor fair.

This concept is abstractly albeit beautifully illustrated in the clever children’s book, Rotten and Rascal, by Paul Geraghty. Meet Rotten and Rascal, two terrible pterosaur twins, and journey with them as they fight over a single fish. Read about their friends who try to help them decide to whom the fish should go. Talk with your students about the validity of each friend’s criteria for who should get the fish in question. Ask them why, for example, Buster thinks that the fish should go to the toughest pterosaur and find out if they think that would be fair. Probe to see if there’s another way to problem-solve this fishy issue other than the criteria that each friend sets. Prepare yourself and your child for the shockingly-surprising ending of this silly story as it’s meant to drive home the point that greed and inflexiblity really can eat us alive. Check out this book and be ready for a juicy discussion about fairness and sharing.

As a follow up, have students rewrite the ending. What would happen to the twins had they done something differently before their untimely meeting with the t-rex? What could they have done and how would that change what happened to them? Where are they now? What are they doing? Are they happy? Content? Getting along? How did this situation affect the way they make choices now? In other words, what, if anything, did they learn from this challenge? It’ll be interesting to let their imaginations fly and see what changes, if any, they make.

Do A Ditty

As evidenced by the widespread popularity of Mother Goose, children love easy-to-remember rhymes and ditties. Here’s a fun one that you can teach with the hand-jive motions to help students remember some of the essential concepts of the fairness pillar.

Gotta Be Fair
by Barbara Gruener

Gotta be fair, you gotta be fair,
Gotta take turns and you gotta share.
You gotta be fair, just gotta be fair,
Gotta play by the rules, all the time, everywhere!

After you get this down rhythmically with the motions, play with it. You can speed it up, use different voices at different pitches, try a southern accent, anything to help it stick in their minds. They’ll have it memorized in no time. Then, it’s their turn. Encourage students to write the next verse of Gotta Be Fair or a catchy poem or ditty of their own. Have them teach it to the class before you make a booklet of all of their little ditties that’d make Mother Goose proud.

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When Fair Isn’t Equal

louisThe concept of equality versus equity is a difficult one for children – and sometimes even grown ups! – to grasp. When we think of fair, we often think of sharing, of equal portions. But fair isn’t always equal. Equity asks us to level the playing field to make things fair, essentially giving people what they need to even things out.

For example, I need my glasses to make life fair for me. My dad now uses a hearing aid to make his life fair. Some people need medical interventions to make life fair. Others use wheelchairs or walkers. They may also take advantage of a parking spot situated closer to the entrance of their destination. I’ve even noticed lately that some stores offer reserved parking for people with small children – that’s a great example of equity in action.

Looking After Louis, written by Lesley Ely and illustrated by Polly Dunbar, elegantly tackles this very challenging topic. The book’s main character has sort of adopted Louis, a new boy in her class with special needs. Louis doesn’t always act like or interact with his classmates. But that doesn’t matter to the narrator. She has accepted him as he is, she looks after him, and she encourages him to draw on his strengths. But how will she feel when one day he has a break-through and gets extra recess with someone else?

Check out this book; it can serve as an insightful springboard for a riveting discussion about when fair isn’t equal.

WOW

For something to be fair, the criteria needs to be set ahead of time and shared up front. For example, if a teacher does not specify that she wants homework done in pencil, then it would be unfair to take points off of the paper of the child who completed the work in pen. That’s why we set the rules ahead of time, before we play a game.

Try this simple experiment: Say to a group of children that we’re going to play a game of Knock It Off and then simply say, “ready, set, go.” No explanation, no guidelines, no rules. They’ve never heard of that game before and have no idea what to do. What will happen? They may sit there with blank looks and lots of questions. But imagine if they were to attempt to play the game – without guideliness, things are confusing, chaotic, and out of control. This would neither be safe nor fair.

This concept is abstractly albeit beautifully illustrated in the clever children’s book, Rotten and Rascal, by Paul Geraghty. Meet Rotten and Rascal, two terrible pterosaur twins, and journey with them as they fight over a single fish. Read about their friends who try to help them decide to whom the fish should go. Talk with your students about the validity of each friend’s criteria for who should get the fish in question. Ask them why, for example, Buster thinks that the fish should go to the toughest pterosaur and find out if they think that would be fair. Probe to see if there’s another way to problem-solve this fishy issue other than the criteria that each friend sets. Prepare yourself and your child for the shockingly-surprising ending of this silly story as it’s meant to drive home the point that greed and inflexiblity really can eat us alive. Check out this book and be ready for a juicy discussion about fairness and sharing.

As a follow up, have students rewrite the ending. What would happen to the twins had they done something differently before their untimely meeting with the t-rex? What could they have done and how would that change what happened to them? Where are they now? What are they doing? Are they happy? Content? Getting along? How did this situation affect the way they make choices now? In other words, what, if anything, did they learn from this challenge? It’ll be interesting to let their imaginations fly and see what changes, if any, they make.

Mixed Up

(Adapted from an idea by Memori Ruesing)

Using Trail Mix or other snack-sized candy bars, granola bars, or raisins, try this interactive way to show students the concept of needing everyone involved in playing a game to follow the same set of rules.

Arrange students into groups of six. Before passing out the treats to each student, give each student a slip of paper with instructions – their rules for playing this game – on it. Tell students NOT to share with their group members what their specific instructions say. Each student’s slip will say something different using the following instructions:

1. Eat the treat.
2. Don’t eat the treat.
3. Eat the treat but discourage others from eating theirs.
4. Don’t eat the treat and discourage others from eating theirs.
5. Eat the treat and encourage others to eat theirs.
6. Don’t eat the treat but encourage others to eat theirs.

Have students begin playing the game by reading and following their instructions when you say “go.” Give them a few minutes to play. After the activity, you can stop the class and have one representative from each group tell what happened in their group. Ask how “fairness” is compromised when each person gets a different set of rules or instructions for a game. Can it be fair? Or does everyone need the same rules to make a game fair? Why or why not? How does it feel to have the treat but not be able to eat it? How does it feel to be eating the treat when the person next to you can’t? As a bonus, you can also discuss self-discipline and peer pressure with this activity.

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That’s Not Fair
Fairness is giving people what they need when they need it. That means playing by the rules, taking turns and sharing, and giving everybody a fair chance. You can play this game to see how your kids are doing with the concepts of the Fairness Pillar.

Directions: Read each statement aloud. Students will decide if the scenario is fair or not fair. If they think it’s fair, they’ll give you a thumbs up and explain what’s fair about it. If they think, “That’s Not Fair,” they’ll give a thumbs down, then explain what is not fair about it AND how they could change it to make it fair.

1. You take the last cookie from the cookie jar.
2. Everyone passes the soccer ball around the weakest player on your soccer team.
3. You allow someone to cut in line in front of you.
4. You only share with children who have a birthday in the same month as you.
5. You wash the dishes and your brother or sister dries them.
6. Your brother shares his toys with you and then you make him pick them up all by himself.
7. Only kids with blue eyes can earn prizes in your class.
8. You save a seat for your best friend every day in the caferia.
9. You change the rules in the middle of the game because your team is losing.
10. You find some money and don’t know whose it is, so you keep it.
11. You play by the rules even though you don’t like one of them.
12. When your friend goes to the movies, he always sneaks in to see another movie when the one he paid for is over.
13. You can’t find your pencil and I have an extra that looks just like yours, so you take it.
14. There’s a student in your class who does see very well, and she gets to be the line leader every day.
15. Your 8-year-old baseball team is one player short and your 10-year-old brother is little for his age, so you give him a jersey and let him play.

NOTE: Some of these scenarios may not have a clear-cut answer, so play along and have fun processing these with your little ones. As a reflection activity, have students make up a few of their own scenarios to get a glimpse into the kinds of things they wrestle with where fairness is concerned!