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Culture: Beliefs and Values #3: Ruby’s Wish: The Value of Education for Girls and Boys

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Lesson Overview:

Most students have an innate sense of what is fair and unfair.  They can also be quite vocal in expressing their displeasure when they feel that they have been ill-treated.  In this lesson, preference is given to girls.  We purposefully provoke the students then introduce them to a story in which children’s lives were determined, to a large degree, by gender.  The big idea is the value of education, but there will be a lot of discussion about fairness and gender.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To understand how a culture values education for both girls and boys.

AASL 2.3.2 “Consider diverse and global perspectives in drawing conclusions.”

AASL 4.4.4 “Interpret new information based on cultural and social context.”

Suggested Time:

35-45 minutes

Success Criteria:

Students will be able to express an opinion about how Ruby and her brothers and sisters were taught.  Was it fair?  Was it right?  How are our values about education the same or different today?

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Explain that today we’ll look at one culture’s beliefs and values about education.  Pass out bookmarks to GIRLS.  Let GIRLS sit on cushions and stools.  Explain that GIRLS will get to choose their books first today.  Expect a backlash from the boys!  This is a provocation and we want to see whether:

  1. Boys express their thoughts about the conditions not being fair.
  2. Girls speak out about the boys’ being treated unfairly

2. Main:

Teach Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Lim Bridges.  Use a “T Chart” and capture on flipchart paper beliefs about education, values about education, and  educational practices in China about 100 years ago.  Contrast that with our own beliefs and values about education.  What is the same?  What is different?  Ask the kids to think about this question:  If you lived in Ruby’s world, would you rather be a boy or a girl?  Why?

Work through the questions on the Student Handout together.

3. Conclusion:

Ask why girls were given special treatment at the beginning of class.  (Answer: Because boys were given special treatment in the story!!)  Pass out bookmarks or treats to the boys, too, and ask the kids how to try to remember how it feels to be treated unfairly or denied something that you deserve.

additional Resources:
  1. Book: Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges
  2. Flipchart paper (can also use Promethean Board or graphic organizers)
  3. Bookmarks, stickers, or cushions
  4. Student Handout, Ruby’s Wish

Sometimes the group that is not favored does not stick up for themselves.  Sometimes the group that is favored does not stick up for the group that is not favored.   The dynamics of this lesson are quite unpredictable.  I have used this lesson with Grade 3 and above but I would not recommend it for younger students.  Although I have placed it in the Unit of Inquiry on cultural beliefs and values, it also fits nicely in a unit on children’s rights.

Key Terms:

Education, Educational Opportunity, Boys and Girls, Fairness, China, University, Gender Based Stereotype, Access to Education

Recommended Texts:
  1. Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Lim Bridges.
student handout:

Student Handout, Ruby’s Wish

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