Convince the Supreme Court Justice: The First Amendment

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Lesson At A Glance

This lesson which can take several class periods as needed, is designed to be the final lesson in the unit, I Know My Rights.  The lesson engages students as they write their opinion to the Chief Justice on two cases; it includes the culminating authentic assessment and rubric for the unit.


  • Students will analyze two current events pending before the Supreme Court. “Students Sue School Over 'I [Heart] Boobies' Bracelets” and “ACLU: Suspension Over Nose Piercing Is Illegal”.
  • Students will debate and discuss, via a Socratic seminar, the two pending cases, keeping in mind the question, “What are the Constitutional issues brought up by the lawsuits and should the Supreme Court hear the cases?”
  • Students will write an essay giving the Chief Justice their opinion on the two cases for his upcoming session.

Standards Addressed: 

History-Social Science

12.2.1 Discuss the meaning and importance of each of the rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights and how each is secured (e.g., freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, petition, privacy).

Understand the changing interpretations of the Bill of Rights over time, including interpretations of the basic freedoms (religion, speech, press, petition, and assembly) articulated in the First Amendment and the due process and equal-protection-of-the-law clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

12.5.4 Explain the controversies that have resulted over changing interpretations of civil rights, including those in Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, and United States v. Virginia (VMI).

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects Grades 11-12  Students

Key Ideas and Details

1. Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

7. Evaluate the hypotheses, data, analysis, and conclusions in a science or technical text, verifying
the data when possible and corroborating or challenging conclusions with other sources of information.

9. Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.

Essential Questions:

1. What rights as Americans do we have? What rights do we not have?

2. Can conflict be beneficial to society?

3. Does social capital (i.e., involvement) strengthen a republic?

4. How should government deal with opposing factions that occur in society?

Activity Steps:  (can take several class periods)

Click here to download activity steps

 Purpose Teacher     Learner
 Into (Hook) Enter the classroom in Judge Costume.

Show students “I [heart] boobies” shirt, ask students should this shirt be banned from campus?  If you refuse to take it off should you be suspended?  If so, how long?

Handout “I [heart] boobies” and “ACLU: Suspension Over Nose Piercing Is Illegal”


Participate in discussions.

Read through assignments (GRASPS and Rubrics) students can start to read and use the Socratic Seminar Form to guide their reading.

 Through Organize Socratic Seminar.

Students given the task of writing an opinion that will be given to the Chief Justice.

Students start the Socratic seminar with the question “What are the Constitutional issues brought up by the lawsuits and should the Supreme Court hear the cases?”

Participate in Socratic Seminar.

Students write opinion on both cases that will be given to the Chief Justice to help him with his decision.

Reflect on unit understanding of how should government deal with opposing factions that occur in society.

  Beyond  Give feedback from both Socratic Seminar and the written opinions.  Reflect and share learning.

Special Needs of students are considered in this lesson:

Students can be paired or provided with accommodations regarding content, technology use, or scaffolding of ideas. Rubrics could be adjusted to ask for one comparison of two countries rather than three for students who may need a shorter but grade level assignment using critical thinking.

Extension Ideas:

Students can find current events that are being discussed in the media and create a News Media report on what is on the news.



Students Sue School Over 'I [Heart] Boobies' Bracelets
PHILADELPHIA (CN  (Actual Lawsuit)

ACLU: Suspension Over Nose Piercing Is Illegal

Student Handouts:

Download student handouts here

Outline of Unit Plan:

I Know My Rights