|| Lesson Plan: Teaching
the Lesson: Overview,
Goals, and Planning
In this 12th-grade law class at Champlin Park High School in Champlin,
Minnesota, JoEllen Ambrose engages students in a structured discussion
of a highly controversial issue--racial profiling--and connects student
learning both to their study of due process in constitutional law and
to police procedure in their study of criminal law. She begins by having
students individually complete an opinion poll, which they then discuss
as a group, realizing that the issue of profiling becomes increasingly
complex as examples of it get closer to their personal experience. By
physically engaging the students (they move around from “Agree”
to “Disagree” to “Undecided” positions as the
discussion proceeds), they get both a visceral and visual sense of the
controversy. The poll is primarily a motivating activity to engage students’
interest. Next, working in pairs, they delve into studying a research
packet that JoEllen Ambrose has prepared, reading local and national sources
on the topic of racial profiling. The next activity pairs students in
a structured debate. The framework for this debate, which comes from the
Center for Cooperative Learning at the University of Minnesota, is highly
specific with regard to both time and task and is designed to have each
partnership argue both sides of the issue. Each group of four is next
charged with the task of developing a consensus position on the issue
and presenting it to the class. A debriefing discussion completes the
- Understand the tension that exists in our democracy between the government’s
interest in promoting public safety and individual rights.
- Take and defend positions regarding various criminal justice issues.
- Define, explain, and evaluate racial profiling as a law enforcement
- Debate both positions on the controversial topic of racial profiling
with support for each.
- Develop a consensus position on how racial profiling as a law enforcement
tool should be used.
JoEllen Ambrose wanted her students to come away from this lesson more
interested in looking at issues in-depth than at simplistic solutions.
She also would like students to have a deeper understanding of what individual
rights are in our society and how the power of the government helps us
to live safely, but can also be abused.
Prior to this lesson, JoEllen Ambrose’s students had a unit on
constitutional law, in which they studied the judicial system, including
how the courts
work, trials, alternative dispute resolution, and appellate procedures.
They have discussed due process as it relates to the right to die, and
participated in a simulation of a trial, in which they role-played lawyers
and argued in front of judges a position on an issue of constitutional
law. More recently, they have had an overview of criminal law. They have
taken a statistical look at crime in America and then focused on various
elements of crime. Currently they are studying criminal procedure (police
investigation, being stopped, searches, pretrial hearings, the trial,
sentencing, prison, and so forth) and what happens at each step. JoEllen
Ambrose introduces major topics through the appropriate chapter in the
course text (in this case, Chapters 12 and 13 of Street Law: A Course
in Practical Law by Lee P. Arbetman and Edward L. O’Brien.
Sixth Edition. West Educational Publishing, 1999). Students also have
seen a video that highlighted police procedures in such situations as
drunk driving and illegal drugs.
Some teachers will find it useful to introduce and discuss some controversial
vocabulary words prior to starting this lesson, e.g., racial, racist,
Overview, Goals, and Planning |
Scheduling and Adaptations