Where We Fit In: The Judicial Branch

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Lesson At A Glance

This is the second lesson in a unit designed to help students understand that the strength of our Democracy is equal to the strength of our citizens; that we do “fit in” to the government’s design of the people, by the people and for the people. This specific lesson relates to the judicial system and our role as citizens.


  • Students will be able to show their understanding of a youth’s role in the judicial system after watching a video segment called, “A Conversation on the Constitution: Judicial Independence”.
  • Students will discuss if they have a responsibility in educating others on the role citizens play in government issues and what those roles might involve.

Standards Addressed: 

Grade 5 History/Social Studies:

Understand the fundamental principals of American Constitutional democracy, including how the government derives its power from the people and the primacy of individual liberty.

Language Arts:

Reading Comprehension (Focus on Informational Materials)
2.1 Identify the structural features of popular media (e.g., newspapers, magazines, online information) and use features to obtain information.
2.3 Discern main ideas and concepts presented in texts, identifying and assessing evidence that supports those ideas.

Visual Arts:

Communicate values, opinions, or personal insights through an original work of art.

Essential Questions/Issues:

1. Where do we as young citizens fit in to the judicial system?

2. Whose responsibility is it to educate others about their civic duties?


Students will be evaluated through informal checks for understanding, teacher observation, and the assessment of the interpretive illustration activity and of their participation in class discussion regarding educating citizens.

Click here to download assessment tools.

Activity Steps:

Click here to download activity steps

Hook: Quick review

5 minutes 

 Elicit class review from our reading material and list of community involvements. With partner, take a minute to see what each remembers. As a class, volunteers share thoughts and key terms from yesterday.
Show Movie: Our Community

5 minutes

Movie Maker (see references for downloading) film of community members in action. (Teacher made) I went around my specific area (community) and took pictures of people being civically involved. For example the Goodwill, Salvation Army and Jury Services. I then compiled these photos into Movie Maker creating a short video put to music. (song – Imagine by Jack Johnson)  View film and follow up with comments.

What do you see people in the video doing for the community?

How does this help others?
Does anyone you know participate in community events?

Guest Speaker:

30 minutes 

Person from the community: newspaper reporter, television cameraman, television newscaster, etc…to share their favorite story involving youths doing something good for the community and showing civic virtue. Students will respectfully listen and ask questions upon the completion of the guest speaker’s story.
Lesson Title: Where Do We Fit In?


6:18 minutes 

Share Video: Segment of “A Conversation on the Constitution: Judicial Independence” (Start of video to 6:18) Sunnylands Seminars (see references) View film and reiterate the message of what the role is for judges, citizens and laws. How are these connected?

Start in class – Complete at home

Review video segment, specifically the part about judicial system, its boundaries and ordinary citizens. Students will draw a scene or symbol of their interpretation of how the judicial system works to provide boundaries, but also how ordinary citizens play a part in the process.


Special Needs of students are considered in this lesson: 

Students are put into flexible grouping scenarios that will address all learning modalities including special need students within our full inclusion program, as well as EL Learners. This activity provides a hands-on learning environment with plenty of opportunities for movement, verbal, and non-verbal communication.

Extension Ideas:

This lesson is designed to get students thinking beyond the classroom, into the community, but could easily be taken beyond the community and into a bigger audience base within the U.S.

Materials and Resources Needed:

  • Video – Sunnyland Seminars
  • DVD player and TV, along with various materials covered during guest speakers’ visits.
  • Construction paper for drawings.
  • Colored pencils and/or markers.


Outline of Unit Plan:

Unit Title: Will You All Please Rise?

I. Lesson One: Defining Civic Duty and Participation.

Analogies, inquiries and reading about the Roman Republic to create a foundation in the understanding of society participation in government.

A. Activities designed to help understand students’ backgrounds regarding service and civic responsibility.
     1. Bread analogy to show that key ingredients are essential for a successful project.
     2. Four Corners activity to represent students’ opinions regarding issues of community participation.
     3. Roman Republic information regarding the key features in making the Republic.

B. Draw what civic duty and participation looks like to individual students.

C. Creating a definition of civic duty and responsibility.
     1. Share out ideas and thoughts from activities listed above in order to generate a definition of civic duty and responsibility.

II.  Lesson Two: Where Do We Fit In?

Our role as citizens as it relates to the judicial system.

A.  Guest Speaker.
      1. Person from the community to share stories of youth roles in civic virtue.
B.  Watch “A Conversation on the Constitution: Judicial Independence”.
      (Start of video to 6:18) Sunnylands Seminars
C.  Draw an interpretation of judicial system and where “we” fit in, after watching video segment.

III. Lesson Three: Public Service Announcements.

Creating an authentic PSA to share with peers and community members.

A. Examples from various media forms.
     1.  Show PSAs from TV, magazines and Internet.
B.  PSA on self.
     1.  1. To raise awareness on the purpose of PSAs.
C.  Authentic assessment guidelines.
     1. Create a PSA showing civic participation and/or education with chosen media.
     2.  Share your PSA with the class and members of the community.