Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Making Civics Real Workshop 1: Freedom of Religion  
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Workshop 1

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Lesson Plan: Teaching the Lesson: Activity 1

Activity 1: Attorneys and Justices Prepare for Trial

Introduce the day’s lesson and announce the groups. Kristen Borges began the class by having students write down a pertinent quote for the day, in this case by Thomas Jefferson: The constitutional freedom of religion is the most inalienable and sacred of all rights. In introducing the quote, Kristen Borges reviewed the meaning of the word “inalienable” and did a quick review of the First Amendment.

Divide students into their assigned groups: Supreme Court, lawyers representing the families, and lawyers representing the school district.

Distribute and discuss the rubrics that will be used to assess students’ performance, explaining the standards students need to meet to score well (see Assessment).

Distribute the Background Information Packet and Student Instructions. The information packet used by Kristen Borges was derived from material developed by the Constitutional Rights Foundation and the Freedom Forum. It contains the First Amendment and information about previous Supreme Court cases dealing with religion in public schools. The packet also includes specific information about the particular case (Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 2000), including what the families are upset about, what the school board policy was concerning prayer at a pre-game ceremony for a football game, and a brief history of the school district and its strong religious tradition.

The role instructions guide the students through a series of questions about the case. The lawyer groups are to examine the situation and try to find an applicable legal precedent. They also have to look at Lemon v. Kurtzman, which is called the Lemon test, and determines whether or not government involvement in a situation violates the principle of separation of church and state. The lawyers also are directed to develop their arguments and make sure they are sufficiently persuasive to convince the Supreme Court that a decision in their side’s favor would benefit society.

The Supreme Court Justices are presented with questions that will stimulate them to examine the complexities of this case, particularly in light of precedents, and prepare questions to ask the attorneys at the hearing.

Before directing the groups to work independently, Kristen Borges had students read aloud the summary of the case and a little bit of the history of the community where it started. While students worked in their groups, she walked around asking questions and helping the students go through some of their background information and narrow down the information to data that would support their position or resolve questions about the case. Typically, she asked open-ended questions that either helped students clarify an issue or redirected their attention from personal opinion to the issues. Later in the class period, she gently moved the groups from information gathering to the development of strategies for the hearing.

Overview, Goals, and Planning    |     Activity 1
Activity 2     |     Activity 3     |     Activity 4     |     Scheduling


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