The First Aid Kit: Equity vs Equality

Michelle Lees, Kanda University of International Studies

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Equity, social justice, critical thinking, discussion
  • Learner English level: Intermediate+
  • Learner maturity: High school+
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Activity time: 30–60 minutes
  • Materials: Whiteboard and pictures (see Appendix for an example picture)

As language teachers, we must teach the language and provide students with the skills to communicate meaningfully.  To achieve this, we must deepen students’ understanding of the cultures, societies and related issues. Social justice issues are widely discussed on social media and so incorporating activities like this helps students engage with real-world issues in a relatable manner. This discussion activity introduces the concept of “equality vs equity” and encourages students to explore its implications.



Step 1: Prepare photos, drawing, or list of items for first aid kits, e.g., plasters, tweezers, scissors, thermometer, and gauze. Note - for additional discussion, first aid items may intentionally be allocated unequally.

Step 2: For large classes, make multiple handouts for groups.

Step 3: Prepare a list of different ailments and diseases, e.g., headache, Covid-19, cut, period pain. Each student should be assigned an ailment.

Step 4: Prepare visual aids for ‘equity’. Examples can be found by searching ‘equity visual representation’. The example in the Appendix shows that providing the same box to individuals with diverse needs does not guarantee fairness or equal opportunity to see over the same fence.



Step 1: Divide students into small groups.

Step 2: Write ‘fair’, ‘equal’, and ‘equality’ on the board and have students discuss the meanings. Basic definitions: fair = everyone is treated equally and given the same opportunities; equal = everything is the same; equality = everyone is treated in the same way and has the same opportunities.

Step 3: Explain that everyone has a first aid kit, and clarify unknown vocabulary. Ask if the distribution is equal and fair. Note - students can request more items and point out disparities in unequal distribution.

Step 4:  Distribute an ailment to each student.

Step 5: Explain that the students need to decide how they will treat themselves with their first aid items. Discussion may be done as a group or individually before presenting ideas.

Step 6: Ask students to report their first aid kit usage and record the numbers for each: those fully healed, partially healed, and unable to use the kit.

Step 7: Write “Was it fair?” on the board and prompt students to reflect on the recorded numbers. Ask about the survival rate of classmates and the activity’s long-term impact on their well-being to continue the discussion.

Step 8: Ask the students to share their ideas before returning to the keywords ‘fair’, ‘equal’ and ‘equality’. Discuss why the activity was unfair despite the equal distribution of first aid kits.

Step 9: Introduce ‘equity’ using the visual aids, and elicit or explain that equity is about recognising diverse starting points and so providing people with what is necessary for success. This is different from equality, which treats everyone the same regardless of differences.

Step 10: Ask students for ideas to improve equity in the activity. Encourage students to share what they need to treat or heal themselves effectively.

Step 11: Conclude by checking if students understand the difference between ‘equality’ and ‘equity’.



This activity can be adapted for other age groups and levels by changing the activity theme, e.g., creating a dish from different ingredients or building a tall structure from distributed Lego.



This activity is a fun way for students to engage in social justice discussions, encouraging critical thinking about resource distribution and its impact. It is a great lead-in to discussing Sustainable Development Goals, and issues like sexism, racism, poverty, and equity over equality.


The appendix is available below: