Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies

TITLE:  Supreme Court Decisions and Their Effect On Us

AUTHOR:  Glen Bradshaw, La Junta, CO

GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT:  11-12, government

OVERVIEW:  Students don't always understand that laws come
from decisions handed down by the courts based on the
constitution, most importantly the Supreme Court.  These
decisions have a direct effect on all of us and play a major
part in protecting, or in some cases, limiting or
restricting our individual rights.

PURPOSE:  This activity is used in a required secondary
American Government class in the middle of a unit on the
federal court system and civil rights.  The purpose of this
activity is to help students understand how Supreme Court
decisions affect all of us and what the Supreme Court bases
its decisions on.

OBJECTIVES:  Due to this activity the student will:
  1.  Identify their constitutional rights based on Supreme
      Court decisions.
  2.  List ten Supreme Court decisions and tell what
      constitutional right was effected by its decision.
  3.  Choose a more recent State Supreme Court or Federal
      Supreme Court decision and write their own opinion on
      the decision had they been one of the Supreme Court

RESOURCES/MATERIALS:  A copy of the U.S. Constitution, a
list of 25 - 30 Supreme Court decisions, newspapers, a
district or county court library, Magruder's American
Government book

1.   From the list of ten Supreme Court decisions the
     students researched and studied, have the students
     choose five decisions by the Supreme Court and tell why
     they feel they are important.  This may be done
     individually or in small groups of three to five.
2.   Have students compare their lists the next day to see
     if any decisions are the same.  This should also show
     the students that there are many decisions that other
     students feel are just as important.
3.   Collect the lists of decisions and share them with the
     class.  Have the students identify which constitutional
     rights were affected by the Supreme Court's decisions
     and why they are important.
4.   Students should be able to freely state their ideas and
     opinions concerning the decisions without being
5.   The teacher should provide background information on
     many of the Supreme Court decisions and also on what
     part of the Constitution (Article, Sections,
     Amendments) the students should refer to for help.

  1.  Return students lists of Supreme Court decisions.
  2.  Have students write a 1-2 page paper from the
      viewpoint of an inanimate object in the Supreme Court
      decision.  Examples:  a license plate (Wooley vs.
      Maynard), a school drinking fountain or bathroom
      (Brown vs. Topeka), a black arm band (Tinker vs., Des
  3.  Watch the movie (VCR), Gideon's Trumpet or The Gideon
      Case - Equal Justice Under the Law (8mm film).
  4.  Have a district or county court judge talk to the
      class as a guest speaker or take a field trip to the
      district or county court to watch a local trial
      dealing with a Supreme Court decision or a
      constitutional right.


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