Teach students facts about the Supreme Court and how it works.
- Learn how to research for a case and build an argument.
- Practice public speaking.
- Learn the importance the Supreme Court has on their lives.
- NCSS Standard: VI. Power, Authority, & Government
- NCSS Standard: X. Civic Ideals & Practices
Time Required: 1-2 days
Recommended Grade Level: 4-8
Topics: Government, History
- How the Supreme Court Works Infographic (.png file)
- Supreme Court's Visitor's Guide to Oral Argument
- Worksheet: Characteristics of a Persuasive Essay
1. Choose Your Case Activity
Use the infographic to present the role of the Supreme Court, how it works, the types of cases that reach the Supreme Court, and any background information on this institution.
Brainstorm with your class possible cases that may reach the Supreme Court, cases students are interested in. Some examples:
- Changing the voting age
- Paying college athletes
- Homework at school should not be legal
- Access to free college education
- A school or local issue
Choose up to three cases from the list (or others that the students may be interested in) and divide the class into groups and assign a role based on the participants in the Courtroom.
- Attorneys are assigned cases to argue in favor and against the case.
- Choose nine students to represent the Justices that will examine the arguments and decide over the case.
- Other roles and tasks to the rest of the class.
Have students start planning their arguments and instruct them to dress accordingly to their role.
Homework: Give students this worksheet where they can learn about arguing, and use to prepare their case.
2. Courtroom Session
Organize your classroom for a mockup courtroom session. Then students will represent their parts:
- the Marshal calls the Court to order, maintain decorum in the courtroom,
- time the oral, presentations, etc.;
- the attorneys argue their cases;
- the Justices ask questions.
After the cases are argued and heard, the Justices will review and discuss the arguments. The decision will be announced to the class.
Homework: Have the students write a short summary of the case. The basics, the arguments for and against and the court's decision and why they thought that way.