Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies

Frances Troyer Glenn, Riverside High School, Boardman, OR


Appropriate for grades 9-12.

OVERVIEW:  This activity is a good introduction on a unit of
Criminal Law.  Students will learn that a crime is something one
does or fails to do in violation of a law; or it can also be
behavior for which government sets a penalty.  Decisions as to
what constitutes a crime are made by legislatures.  They try to
protect the protect the public based on what most people believe
is right and necessary for the orderly conduct of our society.

PURPOSE:  The purpose of this activity is to make students aware
there is no concrete consensus as to what is a crime, the
seriousness of crimes, or variances of actions that change
"noncriminal" behavior to "criminal" behavior.

OBJECTIVES:  The students will ba able to:

 1.  Identify certain "criminal" behavior.

 2.  Identify certain "noncriminal" behavior.

 3.  Analyze actions as to degree of criminal behavior.

 4.  Evaluate and rank certain actions as to "criminal"-
     "noncriminal" behavior.


 1.  After a short introduction that includes a broad definition
     of "crime", distribute handout sheet.

 2.  Have students individually decide if the actions should be
     treated as a crime and gives reasons why.

 3.  Have student rank the offenses from most serious as number 1
     to least serious as number 15.

 4.  Divide class into 4-5 groups and repeat numbers 2 and 3 as a

 5.  Have a spokesperson from each group give rankings and reasons

 6.  Record group rankings on the chalkboard.

 7.  Have class as a whole vote on the rankings of the offenses.

Materials:  Copy the following handout for each student:

 1.  Harold, age 17, robs a liquor store at gunpoint.

 2.  Laurel leaves a store with change for a $10 bill after she
     realizes she gave the cashier a $5 bill.

 3.  Rita approaches a man for purposes of prostitution.

 4.  Ken pays a prostitute after receiving her services.

 5.  Dan parks in a handicap zone and he is not handicapped nor
     are any of his passengers.

 6.  Mike is a narcotic addict who pushes heroin to anyone who
     will buy.

 7.  Tom and Jerry are two homosexuals who live together as though
     they were married.

 8.  Sylvia pickpockets an individuals wallet containing $150.

 9.  Ed refuses to pay income tax because he does not support
     government policies.

10.  Patty is caught with two ounces of marijuana.

11.  Dorothy is caught with two kilos of marijuana.

12.  Rob refuses to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle.

13.  A company pollutes a river with waste from its factory.

14.  Lafe gets drunk and hits a child while speeding through a
     school zone.

15.  Vince observes his best friend shoplifting but does not turn
     him in.

RESOURCES/MATERIALS NEEDED:  No special resources are needed.

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER: This is a good activity to stimulate
discussion on what constitute a crime.  Students will generally
have strong opinions about "non-victim crimes" and indirect
involvement in crime.  I have used this for several years in a
Business Law class that has a unit on Criminal Law and I have
always had success with it.  It takes little preparation and the
group dynamics can be thrilling.


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