Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this ethics lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-12, students will use BrainPOP resources to explore the basics of ethics and morality. They will reflect on how we determine what is right and wrong, and practice using two different strategies for making tough ethical decisions. Students will also practice conflict resolution skills and reaching compromises with others who hold different ethical beliefs.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Define ethics and explain how we decide what is right and wrong.
  2. Explore two different strategies for solving tough ethical dilemmas and evaluate each based on their effectiveness.



ethics; morality; values; deceptive; prohibit; reputation; obligation; loyal; dilemma; formula; betray

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Display one of the ethics quotes from the Related Reading Quotables page or a quote of your own choosing. Alternatively, have students explore as essential question such as "How do we determine what is right and wrong?" As a warm-up activity, have students reflect in writing or orally on what the quote or essential question means to them.
  2. Talk with students about their responses. What are ethics? (The movie defines ethics as a set of guidelines for behaving morally.) Who determines the set of guidelines? Where do the guidelines originate? How do the guidelines change over time?
  3. Play the Ethics movie for the class. Allow students to talk about how their understanding of ethics evolved after viewing the movie.
  4. Ask a student volunteer to explain Tim's process for working through ethical dilemmas (making a pros-and-cons-style list.) Have students ever tried this method? How did it work?
  5. Project the Worksheet on your interactive whiteboard for students to see. Explain that they will choose one of the ethical dilemmas on the Related Reading In Depth page and pair up with a friend to choose sides in the dilemma. Each person will use a sheet of paper to write down arguments to support their side.
  6. Provide time for students to share their arguments with their partner. Remind students of Tim's suggestion to ask themselves, "What solution is fairest to all the people involved?" Encourage students to reach a compromise together and record it at the bottom of their papers.
  7. Ask for volunteers to share the compromise that they agreed to, and talk with students about how the decisions were made.
  8. Pose the following questions to students: How do you determine what is right and wrong? What is the foundation of your "moral compass"? Pass out photocopies of the Graphic Organizer and have students complete it based on an ethical dilemma from the BrainPOP movie, Related Reading page, or their own lives. This could be completed as a homework assignment if you want to give students additional time to reflect...
  9. Ask students to think about which decision-making tool was more helpful for them personally, the activity (pros/cons style list) or the graphic organizer. What strategies will students use to make tough ethical decisions in the future?

Extension Activities:

Encourage students to think about what happens when people have differing ethics. They may think of examples that involve an interpersonal situation they're likely to face (such as whether to tell on a friend who is cheating in school) or a major world event (such as an act of terrorism.) What conflicts are created when a person follows his or her own sense of ethics and it imposes on the rights of others? How can such conflicts be avoided?