This lesson follows lessons introducing the structure of the federal judicial branch and the rights included within the federal Bill of Rights. Students have already participated in a “Bill of Rights Scramble” activity where they have gained an understanding of the basic rights protected under the aforementioned document as well as lessons outlining the structure and function of the U.S. Supreme Court. They have also read and discussed cases relevant to the simulated case that they will be ruling upon.
8.2 Students analyze the political principles underlying the U.S. Constitution and compare the enumerated and implied powers of the federal government.
#6. Enumerate the powers of government set forth in the Constitution and the fundamental liberties ensured by the Bill of Rights.
#7. Describe the principles of federalism, dual sovereignty, separation of powers, checks and balances, and the nature and purpose of majority rule, and the ways in which the American idea of constitutionalism preserves individual rights.
8.3 Students understand the foundation of the American political system and the ways in which citizens participate in it.
#6. Describe the basic lawmaking process and how the Constitution provides numerous opportunities for citizens to participate in the political process and to monitor and influence government.
#7. Understand the function and responsibilities of a free press.
Craft and Structure
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing Grades 6-12
Text Types and Purposes
1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading Grades 6-12
Key Ideas and Details
1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
1. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Research to Build and Present Knowledge
10. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Higher Order Thinking Questions:
Students will write a “justice’s opinion” and apply first amendment interpretations to a simulated case. From there they will use their written opinions to discuss and debate the issue to try to arrive at a consensus in small groups. There will be a debrief discussion as well.
This lesson usually takes two to three class periods. We begin with a brainstorm/or pair share that addresses the question “Why is free speech important?” or “Why did the Founders list it first?” This is followed by an activity in which we look at the specific language of the First Amendment with a focus on the word “abridge”. We then look at some summaries of previous court cases that are relevant to the case they will be ruling upon. I then introduce the simulated case and lead a class discussion about the case. Students begin taking notes in their packets. Students then view the 60 Minutes video and continue taking notes about evidence on both sides of the case. Students then write their own opinions. Next, they meet in small groups to share, and then vote on a group decision. Since there are nine groups, each symbolizes one Supreme Court justice. We discuss the vote and “next steps” once the “court” has ruled.
10 -15 minutes
Use the word “abridged” in several sentences, then revisit text of First Amendment with students.
Acknowledge and list any valid interpretations of the word, and substitute some of them within the text of the First Amendment.
Brainstorm/list possible meanings of the word “abridged” and its meaning within the First Amendment.
|Share and discuss briefs/summaries of relevant First Amendment court decisions (See relevant Supreme Court cases).
||Read and discuss decisions. Ask clarifying questions and discuss rationale of court decisions.|
Pass out lesson packet (see attached packet).
Show the 60 Minutes story related to the “Mock Case Brief”. In this instance it is a story about a controversial video game titled “Grand Theft Auto”. Teacher’s can pick and choose other case and media.
Discuss Decision Writing Guidelines.
Record group votes, discuss implications, Supreme Court procedures and possible constitutional responses (new legislation, amendment process).
At this point students use prior lessons, or a quick web search to fill in the top of their “Decision Writing Template”.
Students take notes on their “Justice’s Notes Template” as they watch and then debrief the video.
Students share their draft opinions, discuss, debate, vote, and then write brief rationales for their votes (based on their written drafts).
|Beyond||Expand selection of relevant Bill of Rights cases, adapt activity to other Amendments, find other media sources and current events that can be made into simulated cases.||Students can research and find related cases that have been addressed in the California court system. Students can speculate about future cases involving trends in social networking and texting.|
Special Needs of students are considered in this lesson:
GATE: This lesson gives plenty of opportunity for critical thinking, and further case study/exploration. Special Ed: Depending on the learning challenge, steps are easy to modify or differentiate. The video game scenario provides strong visuals related to First Amendment issues. Small groups facilitate inclusion of Special Ed. students in discussion and voting process. ELL: Again, steps can be modified and the topic has a significant visual element. Small groups promote inclusion of ELL students in discussion and voting process.
Other cases can be analyzed in a similar fashion. Students can find cases or controversies in the news that share common threads. A mock Supreme Court can be adapted to this activity.
Materials and Resources Needed:
The Bill of Rights
CBS News Website
Hall, Kermit (1996). America Legal History: Cases and Materials. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hall, Kermit (1999). The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions. New York: Oxford University Press.
Patrick, John (2001). The Supreme Court of the United States: A Student Companion. New York: Oxford University Press.
Relevant Supreme Court Cases
Download student handouts:
Outline of A Unit Plan:
This lesson is within an 8th grade unit about the Bill of Rights and focuses on how the Supreme Court operates within the context of a simulated First Amendment case.