When Freedom Isn’t Free
I’m a little conflicted when I recommend The Wall by Eve Bunting for your little learners, mostly because it’s an emotionally-loaded, moving tale that leaves me so sad about our casualties of war. But it’s such a great find that I would be remiss to overlook it! A boy and his father have traveled to Washington, D.C. to visit the Vietnam War Memorial and look for the boy’s grandfather’s name among those who were killed in the war.
The boy’s father says, “I’m proud that your grandfather’s name is on this wall.” The boy agrees, then adds, “but I’d rather have my grandpa here.” There’s such a strong underlying “It’s-Not-Fair!” theme in that statement that will make for a rich discussion or journal prompt. Find out if your students think the boy is being selfish. Is it fair that the boy won’t ever get to meet his grandpa? Why or why not? What, if anything, can he do about it? Need more ways to teach the concepts of fairness and justice?
It’s Not Fair!
Do things have to be the same or equal to be fair? Amy Rosenthal’s book entitled It’s Not Fair! answers that question simply and succinctly. In fact, the reader of this little treasure, illustrated by Wisconsin native Tom Lichtenheld, reads that common refrain so much that he or she can’t help but chime in before the final page is turned. Starting with everyday occurrences like an unevenly split cookie or the bad timing of catching chicken pox while everyone else is playing outside at a birthday party, Rosenthal’s clever book expands to include a pig who think’s it’s not fair that birds get the wings and a planet that thinks it’s not fair Saturn’s got the rings. In this brief survey, our little learners will quickly realize they’re not the only ones who think “It’s Not Fair.”
Use this quick read-aloud to start a dialogue with your students about equity versus equality. Then, using the discussion starter – Things do not have to be equal to be fair – ask students to jot down examples of what is not equal but yet fair. Do eye glasses, for example, simply level the playing field or do they give me an unfair advantage? Then revisit the book page by page and ask kids if they agree or disagree that It’s Not Fair. Chart their opinions, but get ready – you may need a Venn Diagram for this one!
The Fairness Forum
Want to know what the kids think of fairness? Send them out into the school (or the community!) as reporters for your very own school newsletter, The Fairness Forum. First, discuss the newspaper business and why fair and balanced news reports would be important to their paper and their reputation. Have them find examples of things that are fair and unfair, practices that seem just or injust, ideas that are open-minded or closed-minded. Encourage them to take notes in a journal prior to scripting for their readers. Have them report their findings as an editorial, a creative piece, or a headliner. Then ask them to take around a character cam (hand make a camera like the one pictured or a digital or video camera) to catch fairness in action. Give students the supplies they need to make a scrapbook of the pictures they took or draw pictures of what they witnessed. Teach them to put together a power point or video clip in computer lab. Use this as a point of view lesson, too. Send two students to cover the same event but have them write up their reports independently, then compare them to see how their accounts differ. Help students learn to discern fact from fiction. Ask them what they think the quote “Perception is reality” means. What, if anything, does it have to do with the fairness pillar? What other maxims have they heard that illustrate their concept of fairness? Include those in your paper, too.
A Taste of Colored Water
What does colored water taste like? If it’s red, we usually suspect that it’s cherry or strawberry. Purple? Grape. Yellow? Lemonade, right? Well, when Abbey Finch tells cousins Lulu and Jelly that there is a colored water fountain in the city, their imaginations run wild trying to figure out what colored water might look and taste like. They can’t help but wonder why they don’t have colored water bubblers. When they get a chance to go with Uncle Jack into the city and see the colored fountain, they find themselves amid civil unrest. What will they discover and what will they learn?
Coming at an issue using a reverse-discrimination twist, author Matt Faulkner addresses the 1960’s civil rights movement with grace and finesse. Weave this book into your Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration or Black History Month. You may find it difficult for today’s learners to imagine a time when segregation existed at all, much less for something as basic as a drink of water or a seat on the bus. Use the book as a springboard for a discussion about rights, privileges, and justice. Use the online dictionaries in computer lab to define and explain words like colored, segregation, discrimination, acceptance, open-mindedness and tolerance, then talk about the Civil Rights Movement. Be ready for some interesting questions. As an enrichment, students can journal about a time when they felt like they were not being treated fairly or when they were excluded from something. Ask them to thoroughly explore why they might have been left out as well as how they felt when it happened. Finally, go on a scavenger hunt in the library and find other books with a similar theme.
Character Collage Challenge
Since part of the Fairness Pillar is taking turns and sharing, this ought to prove to be a challenging activity for your students. Preassemble five collage-making kits, making sure that they are all slightly different. For example, put scissors in three kits but not the other two. Put colorful magazines in four but only a black and white newspaper in the other. Put a glue stick in two but not the other three. Give some of them a heart-shaped piece of poster board and the others a small piece of construction paper to which they’ll attach their pictures. Some can have markers, others get crayons, one just gets a pencil. You get the idea.
Divide your class into teams of four or five. Their challenge? To make a collage that would adequately describe their team. Ask them to make it interesting and to use sparkle words and color. Give them the kits for them to use but don’t tell them that the kits are different. As they start to work, they’ll figure out that they don’t have all of the supplies that they want or need to give their best effort. Will you hear shouts of, “That’s Not Fair!” or will they work it out and share their supplies? Let them decide. If they ask you if they can borrow glue from another team, simply ask them to do what they think would be fair.
After your little artists realize that they cannot give their best effort without sharing supplies, have them complete the collage using one another’s supplies before sharing the finished product. Debrief how it felt to be given a project without the right tools and find out what they did to problem solve.