User Menu

MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Is That Fair? How Writing Can Help... Inspired by the Magna Carta

What makes something fair?...


Everyone wants to be treated fairly and respectfully. When people agree on something, it helps to write it down. That way, if there is a misunderstanding later on, they can go back and check what the words actually say – what they originally agreed upon. Eventually, they might decide to make rules and laws, so again, writing everything down is one of the ways to keep things fair. That way, if someone has an issue with a rule or a law after it’s been written down, they can reread it and check out what it means. And sometimes, people might determine that certain rules or laws are unfair, and then they need to be rewritten or revoked.


But there wasn’t always writing. Like just about everything else, writing had to be invented.


This lesson was inspired by the special exhibition on the Magna Carta and its influences on our own country during the time leading up to and including the Revolutionary War and especially by the Teacher Workshop "Magna Carta and the Coming of the American Revolution." It moves backwards and forwards in time in order to explore how writing can help ensure that something is fair. This lesson also aims to help empower children so that they can understand why there are laws -- and that if we want to try to change something, we can use our words and our writing to do so.  The sources for this lesson are primarily from the collections at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Massachusetts Historical Society, the two institutions who jointly organized this special exhibition and co-taught our workshop. This lesson is directed at 4th and 5th graders (but possibly 6th graders might also be able to use it), especially because fairness is such an important issue for them. Slides include documents, artifacts, and paintings. There are questions about the documents, aiming especially to prompt students to think about who wrote the particular document, who was included, and who was not. Some of the paintings are to give historical context, and some tie in directly to the flow of increasing freedoms and widening circles of whom was being given those freedoms that this online gallery and lesson plan hope to highlight.


Learning Goals:

Students will be able to learn that there was a time before writing and that writing had to be invented.

Through paintings and documents, students will be able to see how writing and words are powerful tools -- how the written word can persuade people and help to win rights and ensure freedoms.

Students will practice looking at and interpreting primary sources.

Students will look at and analyze rules from their own school.

Students will write about a rule -- within reason -- that they would like to have implemented or changed.

Related Resources

Enter the classroom password.