Since the beginning of the school year, I had tried to build a sense of community in our classroom. For example, we held daily meetings where we shared what was going on in our lives. The students paired up and told each other what they did the night before and what they planned to do after school. We then wrote a summary of these "news" reports, with each person reporting on their partner's news. (I modeled several times for my students what it would look and sound like to be eager, respectful listeners.) We had also done lessons about friendship and had begun a reading buddy program with a fourth-grade classroom.
In addition, we often talked openly in class about why some people are treated differently than others. I didn't pretend to know why, but I think it is important to be honest about the fact, since my students will face prejudice and racism during their lives.
I knew my students were aware of the ideas "fair" and "unfair" and decided to start the two-week unit with those concepts rather than the words "justice" and "injustice."
In our first lesson, we discussed what it meant to be fair. I wrote their answers on a piece of chart paper labeled, "Fairness."
"Letting everyone get a turn," was Tammy's example.