Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Equally Unequal: Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

Equality, Fairness, and the Amendments

Polly Base, Lindsey Link | Published: May 16th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level
  • Subject Subject
  • Course Course
  • Time Frame Time Frame 200
  • Duration More 4


Students will read and analyze the short story, "Harrison Bergeron," by American writer Kurt Vonnegut. Students will consider how the amendments to the constitution promote equality. They will discuss different claims, which support the amendments, and discuss evidence or lack of evidence to explain how the amendments affect society. Students will examine the structure of the amendments and write their own amendments, which will improve society for all people.

Essential Question(s)

Do the amendments to the Constitution ensure all people living in America are given the basic rights of equality?



Students participate in a Four Corners strategy focused on the important statement, "Fairness is more important than freedom."


Students engage in an I Notice, I Wonder strategy in regard to the U.S. Constitutional Amendments.


Students read and Why-Light "Harrison Bergeron."


Students consider evidence in support of, or against the validity of, constitutional amendments by participating in a Claim Cards strategy in small groups.


Students write fair amendments to the constitution, which contribute to the betterment of society.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • "Harrison Bergeron" short story (attached; one per student)

  • U.S. Constitutional Amendments (linked; one per pair of students)

  • I Notice, I Wonder Jamboard (linked below)

  • Four Corners signs (attached)

  • Claim Cards (attached; one set per group)

  • Agree or Disagree Argument (attached) (optional)

  • Highlighters

  • Sticky notes (two different colors per group)

  • Computers


20 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides.

Show slide 3 to begin the lesson. Take a moment to read aloud the essential question: "Do the amendments to the U.S. Constitution ensure all people living in America are given the basic rights of equality?"

Show slide 4 to review the learning objectives for the lesson.

Show slide 5. Watch the short clip titled, What is Equality? Stop the video at the 35-second mark. Ask students to discuss their opinions of the concepts of equality and fairness.

Show slide 6. Share the directions for the instructional strategy, Four Corners.

Show slide 7. Ask students to consider the statement, "Fairness is more important than freedom."

Explain that fairness is defined as "treating people according to their needs, free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism."

Give students a few minutes to form their opinions about the statement, ask them to move to one of the four corners in the room: Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree, Strongly Agree,

Show slide 8. Have groups discuss their opinions about the statement and choose a spokesperson to share out their thoughts.

Show slide 9. After each representative has spoken, give students who may have changed their opinions an opportunity to switch groups. Ask students who change their groups to explain their reasons for changing.


30 Minute(s)

Display slide 10. Explain the instructional strategy, I Notice, I Wonder. Share the U.S. Constitutional Amendments (or pass out U.S. Constitution Amendments handout).

Show slide 11. Ask students to access the link to the I Notice, I Wonder Jamboard. If students are unable to link to the Jamboard, pass out sticky notes to each group (two different colors for each group).

Instruct students to partner up and discuss their observations regarding the structure of the different amendments. Remind students to examine the amendments for similarities and/or patterns and include those observations on the Jamboard for this activity.

Display slide 12. Share the film 2081, a video adaptation of the story, "Harrison Bergeron." The film is about 26 minutes long.

Ask students to identify what types of censorship or violations of human rights, based on our current amendments to the Constitution, they noticed in the video.


50 Minute(s)

Show slide 13. Introduce the author, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Distribute copies of the short story handout, "Harrison Bergeron," and highlighters for students.

Show slide 14. Have students listen to a portion of the audio version of "Harrison Bergeron." The audio version takes 15:38 minutes. About 5-7 minutes into the reading (choose an appropriate stopping place), stop and discuss the current constitutional amendments in relation to the amendments mentioned in the story.

Ask students to discuss the following:

  • Define "amendment" based on their prior knowledge.

  • Recall the number of amendments we currently have to the constitution.

  • Recall any of the amendments to the constitution from the previous activity.

Show slide 15 with the list of the 27 amendments to the Constitution and brief explanations for each. Ask students the following discussion questions:

  • Which amendment do you think improved society most? Why?

  • Based on the first paragraph of the story, how many amendments had been added to the constitution from the present to 2081, the date of the story?

Show slide 16. Introduce the instructional strategy, Why-Lighting. Have students highlight instances of unfairness and violations of rights reflected in the print copy of the story. Ask them to write in the margins of the handout what rights are being taken away and why this is unfair.

Return to slide 14 and continue to play the audio for your students as they follow along with the rest of the story. Remind students that "fairness" is defined as treating people according to their needs free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.

On finishing the story, have a class discussion on the issues of unfairness that are displayed in the story.

  • Were the amendments good for the people?

  • What basic human rights were being violated to create a "truly equal" society?


50 Minute(s)

Show slide 19 and reread the essential question, "Do the amendments to the U.S. Constitution ensure all people are given the basic rights of equality?"

Show slide 20. Introduce the instructional strategy Claim Cards.

Have students split up into groups of five (5). Have each group member select one of the Claim Cards to discuss. Explain to the students that these claims are based on Amendments to the Constitution.

The Claim Card statements are on slides 21-25.

Claim Card Statements:

  • Peacefully protesting in America is legal and safe (slide 21 ).

  • States in America provide all people with the same rights (slide 22).

  • People in America have a voice regarding political decisions (slide 23).

  • The Constitution is not used against people (slide 24).

  • Citizens are protected from cruel and unusual punishment (slide 25).

Show slide 26 after all student groups have discussed their Claim Cards. Have them create a 90-second Flip that includes the following:

  1. A claim statement that the group believes is the best claim for the essential question;

  2. An explanation of why their claim is the best;

  3. Evidence to support this.


50 Minute(s)

Show slide 27. Instruct students to review their Jamboard results from earlier in the lesson. Have them share out observations they made of the structure of the amendments.

Show slide 28. Ask students the following question: How can the U.S. Constitution be improved?

As a class, brainstorm some ways the U.S. Constitution should be changed. Have a student from each group write responses on the board or a piece of chart paper. Instruct students to choose a change they feel is important and write an amendment to the Constitution.

Show slide 29. Share with students the two available options: (1) write a 28th amendment and a Claim, Evidence, Reasoning paragraph, or (2) create a multimedia presentation.

Advise students to ensure that the new amendment include the following:

  • It is fair for all people.

  • It improves society.

  • Include evidence for the need and importance of the amendment.

Instruct them to include in the C-E-R paragraph the following:

  • New amendment

  • Claim

  • Evidence that this amendment is necessary

  • Reasoning explaining how the amendment is fair and will help society

Instruct them to include in the Multimedia Presentation the following:

  • New amendment

  • Sixty-second presentation including pictures, artwork, music, text, or video displaying why the amendment is necessary, how it is fair, and how it will help society.