Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky
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Lesson Plan: Fairness

Suggested Grade Level

Primary (lesson can be modified for other grade levels)

This lesson could be taught within a unit on the civil rights movement or a unit on equality and fairness within a home or school setting.

Academic Expectations

1.4 Students make sense of the various messages to which they listen.
1.11   Students write using appropriate forms, conventions, and styles to communicate ideas and information to different audiences for different purposes.
2.14   Students understand the democratic principles of justice, equality, responsibility, and freedom and apply them to real-life situations.
2.20   Students understand, analyze, and interpret historical events, conditions, trends, and issues to develop historical perspective.

Program of Studies

  • Understand how and why (cause and effect) events occurred in the community, state, or nation.
  • Understand and begin to apply rights and responsibilities in relation to the community.

Core Content

  • SS-E-1.3.1
  • SS-E-1.3.3

Objectives of Lesson

  • Student will be able to distinguish between that which is fair and that which is unfair.
  • Student will offer solutions as to how to remedy a seemingly unfair situation.


Students will write about what fairness means to them and offer three fair solutions to the following scenario:

“A new student has arrived in your class. Her clothes are wrinkled and somewhat dirty, and her hair is uncombed. You hear two students snicker and make an unkind comment about her appearance. At recess, you notice the same two students ridiculing and making fun of her. Give three fair solutions to how you could handle this situation.”

Suggested Scoring Criteria


4 Student gives a description of what fairness means to him or her and gives three examples of how the scenario can be handled fairly.
3   Student gives a description of what fairness means and gives two examples of how the scenario can be handled fairly.
2   Student gives a description of what fairness means and gives one example of how the scenario can be handled fairly.
1   Student gives either a description of what fairness means or one example of how the scenario can be handled fairly.
0   Student does not attempt to respond to the scenario.

Materials Needed for Lesson

  • Video:
    Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky
  • Web site:
    Photographs of signs enforcing racial discrimination from the Library of Congress (
  • Publication:
    Kentucky’s Black Heritage. Published by the Commonwealth of Kentucky: Kentucky Commission on Human Rights; Frankfort, KY; © 1971.

Description of Lesson

Explain to the students that the class will be doing an experiment over the next two days: Students with blue eyes will gather in a certain area of the room. Students with brown or green eyes will gather in another area of the room. Explain to both groups that one group will be highly favored over the other group on day 1 and then the roles will reverse on day 2. Members of the highly favored group will always be first in line, answer all questions asked in class, have class privileges, have a longer recess, and be allowed to do anything they want within the bounds of our classroom and school rules.

After the two days, the experiment will be concluded and all students will be equal again. As a class, brainstorm comments made by students on their reactions to the previous two days. Positive and negative comments will be accepted.

Give students background information on occurrences that helped bring about the civil rights movement (during this discussion, focus on segregation of schools, restaurants, theaters, restrooms, and drinking fountains). Then show the education segment of the video Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky and follow up with class discussion.

Explain to students how fairness/unfairness based on a quality or the lack of a quality also can be related to people who have disabilities or are of a different social class or religion. Give each student a Popsicle stick with a laminated happy face labeled “fair” on one side and a laminated unhappy face labeled “unfair” on the other. Ask a series of questions portraying fair and unfair situations and have students use their Popsicle sticks to vote on whether each scenario is fair or unfair. Some sample questions:

  • An African-American child has enrolled at your school, but your teacher will not allow the child to be in her/his class.
  • A grocery store in your town allows only black people to purchase groceries.
  • A handicapped child is interested in attending gym class but cannot go down the steps, and the school will not build a ramp for her wheelchair.

Additional Activity

Pass out something every student would want (cookies, prizes, etc.), but purposely run out of the treat before the last three students in class are served. As a class, brainstorm fair and unfair ways to deal with this situation. Vote on how to handle this problem and take the action that was voted on.

Teacher Contact

Kristi Wilkerson, Peaks Mill Elementary, Franklin County

Living the Story > For Teachers > Fairness Lesson Plan