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 8: Rights and Responsibilities of Students  
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Workshop 7

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Lesson Plan: Teaching the Lesson: Activity 2

Activity 2. Small Groups Prepare for Court
Divide the students into small teams (Matt Johnson used teams of three students), each of which will function as a legal team representing either a plaintiff, a respondent, or members of the Supreme Court. The lawyers’ task is to develop oral arguments in response to a hypothetical case. The Justices should get the same case materials as the lawyers, including the relevant briefs and the hypothetical cases. They will need to develop questions to ask the lawyers.

Distribute the Hypotheticals to students. The hypothetical cases, developed by Matt Johnson, are based loosely on real cases presented in front of the Supreme Court during its 2001-2002 term. Matt Johnson chose them because he felt that they could touch the lives of students, which is key to this activity. In reviewing the lesson after it was completed, Matt Johnson thought that if he repeated the lesson, he might add more facts to the hypotheticals to give the students more material to consider. Teachers using this lesson should bear in mind that the cases on which these hypotheticals were based will probably have already been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although Matt Johnson uses cooperative learning techniques extensively in his classroom, he always assigns a specific piece of writing, which every student must complete. In this case, that would be either the Lawyer’s Worksheet or the Judge’s Worksheet, depending on a student’s assigned role. Additional handouts that were used by Matt Johnson in this activity are the Appellate Argument Checklist and the Mock Trial Scoring Rubric.

These handouts will help students understand that they not only need to look for cases that will help their side prevail, but anticipate what arguments the opposing side will use and develop strategies that will lessen the impact of arguments that may be mounted against them. It may also be useful to remind students that the 30 cases they have briefed, which are actual cases that have been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, set various precedents for how the Court is likely to consider the hypothetical cases. Finally, suggest to students that all team members take a role in presenting the case in front of the Court. Circulate among the groups as they deliberate, asking questions when appropriate to help them focus and clarify their arguments.

Note also that Matt Johnson chose not to let teams know which other team would be the opposing counsel.

For homework, assign each Justice to develop three questions that they will ask the petitioner and three questions that they will ask the respondent. Lawyers are to develop and type a one-page opening statement.

Overview, Goals, and Planning    |     Activity 1     |     Activity 2
Activity 3     |     Activity 4     |     Activity 5     |     Activity 6     |     Scheduling and Adaptations


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